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Dinner winner: 7 tips that got our toddler to eat

My sweet Little Bean (which is one of her many nicknames, and much less visually confusing than “A”.) has been challenging at the dinner table, but we seem to have gotten into a good routine lately.  After lots of stress about food, we’ve found a few things that work for us.

1) Give a very small portion on her plate, and have extra set aside to top it up. Too much food on a plate can be overwhelming visually, and seems daunting.  She seems to enjoy it better when she can clear her plate and then ask for more.

2) Everyone at the table eats the same thing, and we sit down and eat together as a family. Seeing hubby and I eating something will encourage her to give it a try. Sometimes she prefers to sit on our laps and eat right off our plates, which is also okay, though not always convenient.

3) If she gets dramatic about not eating something, stay calm and don’t give attention to it. Instead, turn conversation to anything else – toys, her day, whatever – and keep eating.  This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when she’s shouting “I don’t want it!” and turning her head and flailing her arms in front of her face.

4) Include her in the dinner conversation. It’s a family meal, and when she gets to participate I find everything goes more smoothly.  Even when it’s just asking her what sounds an animal makes.

5) Try presenting things differently. Little Bean HATES cooked vegetables but loves them raw. With pasta, she prefers the noodles plain, and having the sauce on the side like a dip. Even cutting things into different shapes, or steaming instead of pan-frying, or just organizing on the plate can make a difference.

6) Remember that she knows when she feels full, and respect that. This is the hardest for us, since my daughter has always been at the bottom of the growth chart for weight and eating has been a HUGE stressor for hubby and I. But, also, announcing that she’s full means that she’s done, and doesn’t get to snack later outside of her normal routine. She still has to sit at the table and hang out with us if we’re not done eating. We leave the table at the same time. Sometimes she’ll pick at what’s on her plate some more, which is fine. We’ll leave it out for her until we’re all done and put all the dishes away at the same time.

7) NO tech at the table. No phones, no TV, nothing. It’s our time to connect with each other, to talk and make eye contact. This is NOT negotiable in our house.

It has taken some trial and error to get to this point.  Dinner time is still not flawless, but it has improved a lot.

What tips or tricks would you suggest for a picky eater?

Enjoying a Canada Day poutine with daddy.

Enjoying a Canada Day poutine with daddy. Photo courtesy Daddy’s Twitter account.

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A whole new year

I wrote this back in February and never realized that it didn’t post! Here’s a little blast from the past, then, as we’re about to start June.

We’re a month into 2015 already and it’s hard to believe that A is already two years old. She is still announcing it’s her birthday, even though it was the end of December.  Our little bean is officially a toddler.  Nothing shows this more than her favourite new mealtime phrase: I don’t want it.

She had a small birthday party with family, and got spoiled rotten. Her favourite gifts by far is were from Daddy: a keyboard which has a multicoloured disco ball that lights up when it’s on, and an Etch a Sketch-style drawing board.  Another favourite gift is a baby doll.  As a joke, Hubby mimicked the doll saying no when A tried to feed her, to show her how annoying it is when A refuses to eat  Unfortunately, this backfired and now her favourite game with the doll is “baby say no!”

We’re at the stage now where A says some pretty entertaining things. She has some favourite foods, including raisins. One snack time, after me telling A that she had eaten enough raisins, she turned to Hubby and said, “How about Daddy give the raisins?” This was the first time we saw her try this, and we were amused and intrigued by this strategy. (She didn’t get the raisins. 🙂 )

She also came up with this the other day:

Sometimes you drink.
Sometimes you cry.
Sometimes you get down.

It sounded to me like lines from a country song.  The context: she was sitting up on a kitchen chair with her sippy cup. Perhaps she can set it to music with her new keyboard.

Daddy daughter jam session

Daddy daughter jam session

My budding comedienne

My daughter has a very well-developed funny bone, and she loves to make us laugh.

It all started a few months ago, when A learned that sticking her tongue out would get a laugh. Hubby and I would return the gesture, and we would all end up in fits of giggles.  She also has a great fake laugh which makes her sound like a haughty grandmother.

On her favourite show, Yo Gabba Gabba, there is occasionally a segment called Funny Faces, where the kids who are guests on the show make funny faces for a few minutes, to a cute 8-bit soundtrack. This taught A that she could add to her repertoire, and she started jamming her fingers into her cheeks while sticking her tongue out. Not long afterwards, she started hooking her fingers in the sides of her mouth and pulling her mouth wide, sometimes while sticking her tongue out.

Now she’s added knock knock jokes to her repertoire. It started with this:

A: Knock knock!

Me: Who’s there?

A: A! (her first name)

Me: A who?

A: (her full name)!

Once she felt confident in this one, she started experimenting. Her latest is this:

A: Knock knock!

Me: Who’s there?

A: Elephant.

Me: Elephant who?

A: Toot!

She told this one to hubby on Saturday and he burst out laughing. She was so proud of this one that she has told it a few times since. I agree that she should be proud, and I’m excited that she’s being creative with her humour. She is a very happy, cheerful child most of the time, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Funny Faces

Girls, strength, and the beauty ideal: A beach conversation

My daughter is just 20 months old right now, and I find myself thinking about how to help her, in the future, focus on all the cool things she can do, and not just how she thinks she looks in the eyes of others. She’s so full of self-confidence and curiousity and tenacity that I want to do everything I can to protect and nuture it. This question is something I’ll put in my back pocket and save for when it’s needed.

Dr. Rebecca Hains

My five-year-old son befriended an eleven-year-old girl at the beach last week. As they worked together to create a sand castle, her dad and I chatted about my work as a media studies professor and his work as a high school art teacher.

“So, you said your research is about body image?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s something I’m really passionate about.”

“You know, my passion is figure drawing,” he said, “but it’s difficult to teach to high school students today. They just don’t have realistic ideas about the female body.”

“Oh, in what way?” I asked.

“Teenagers don’t know what real bodies look like any more,” he lamented. “They have a preconceived idea in their heads—a bias that they can’t see past. I can see in their drawings that they’re not seeing. So they complain: ‘Hey, Mr. Richards, how come all your women have muscles? They look like men. That’s gross.'”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Your students think…

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Big kaboom.

It was bound to happen at some point, i suppose. A has been working hard on standing on her own, and she’s able to maintain it for a dozen seconds or so now. Sometimes she gets so excited that she starts to bounce up and down, which usually ends up with her sitting unexpectedly.

A few days ago she stood up next to the coffee table, a common place for her to stand and play with her toys.  She lost her balance and fell down. Unfortunately, on her way down she bumped her head & bit her lip. I panicked – her lip was bloody and I couldn’t tell right away how bad it was. She was upset and crying, understandably.  After a cold wash cloth, i could see the two tiny scrapes on her lip matching her two upper teeth.  The cold cloth seemed to help soothe the pain, and within a few minutes she was back to puttering around as if nothing had happened.

Over the weekend her bottom lip looked particularly rosy due to the scrapes, but they’re completely gone, the whole thing forgotten now.  I felt a flash of guilt when it happened, that I should have been able to keep her from falling, but of course that’s ridiculous.  Kids get bumps and bruises, it’s a part of life, and it wasn’t at all serious.  She’s quite resilient and forgets about these things quickly, which seems like a good character trait.  I suppose we can’t learn to dust ourselves off and move on unless we take a few tumbles first.

First visit with Santa

My daughter is in child care through the week while I’m at my shiny new job.  One day per week, my parents take A and she gets to spend the day with them.  I love that she gets a special day with her grandparents, and that they get to develop a strong relationship with her.

On Grandparent Day this week, they took her to the mall to see Santa.  Now, A is pretty shy around strangers, especially those that want to pick her up.  Most of the time, she’ll cry.  I was a bit apprehensive about how this would play out, because putting her on the knee of a stranger seemed like a recipe for waterworks.

They took A to the mall in the afternoon, with a tummy full of lunch & having had a good morning nap.  They waited in line for a half an hour, and pointed out to me afterwards that despite other kids in line who were crying, A stayed calm and in a good mood.

Finally, she got her turn with The Big Guy.  Santa must really have a way with the wee ones, because not only did she not cry, she seems pretty happy in her photo.  I was half-expecting to get one of those red-faced, tear-streaked sorts of Santa photos.  You know, the ones that everyone gets a good chuckle out of, in later years.

Santa photo 2013Nope, as far as Santa photos go, A’s is great!

E-I-E-I-Ugh

I have a very busy baby. She has lots on her daily agenda, including squirming, wriggling, standing, cruising, bouncing, and so on. The change table is no different.

A loves to make changing her diaper a challenge. She tries to roll over. She sits up. She grabs my hair, or pulls wipes from the container, or plants her feet and pushes her body towards the end of the table. I strap her down and it slows her down a bit. I hand her little things to play with, like her hair brush.  The one thing that stops the wiggling for a minute or two, however, is singing Old MacDonald.

I can usually get through 4 or 5 animals before she loses interest and resumes her Cirque du Soleil training. That’s usually plenty of time to deal with a wet diaper.  This also means that I sing the song a lot. At most diaper changes, in fact.  As any parent knows, while repetition is the key to success, it is also they key to going completely bonkers.

Because of this, A will grow up knowing that Old MacDonald has a very diverse farm. He has horses, cows, pigs, and all the usual barnyard friends. He also has tractors (vroom vroom!), crows (squawk squawk!), swimming pools (splish splash), lions (roar roar!), and sometimes even tuna (blub blub!). The cast of extras varies depending on how creative I feel, how awake I am, and how many times I’ve sung that day. I’ve probably screwed her up for song time in kindergarten but at least she’s learning what sounds things make.