On babies I am not an expert. On twins I am certainly no expert. On nutrition I am definitely no expert. I just love to eat food, and I love cooking, and I have had two babies that I have had to nurture and entertain for over 18 months now… and counting. I find that it is a big job. I’ve gone to the ends of my creative brain and back to be triumphant in these endeavors.
Since I fancy myself as having been successful (all the while wondering what other people have done) I thought I’d share some of the tactics that have worked wonderfully for me. (So if this post encourages you to share any tips yourself, please leave a comment.)
- Eat with them. They want what you have. In the beginning this was tricky. Taking a bite of your own food in between serving other people all of their bites is enough to make you not hungry. But if you fumble through it in the beginning it becomes much easier. And when you are serving something new make sure you take a bite or two before you offer any to the kids. They’ll get super anxious to try it and beg for a bite even if it’s ceasar salad with anchovies. (Yes. My kids will eat salad. Yes my kids will eat anchovies. Sometimes.)
- Feast as close to the ground as possible. This is a good practice at any age until people become mature enough to not throw food. When my girls first began eating (7 months) we sat on the floor on a beach towel. They were in Bumbos. They could only fling the spoon about six inches. This made for the easiest clean-up.
- Beach Towels. I still use a beach towel under the highchairs. It catches everything. After each meal I shake out the crumbs, and at the end of the day I get a new one. So I only have to mop as often as any normal human.
- Let the kids throw food on the floor. Whenever my girls don’t want to eat, or just want to be sassy, they throw everything I put on their tray onto the floor. I will let this continue through the meal. Inevitably, when we are done eating, and I have finished cleaning them up, and I set them free on the floor, they crawl around the beach towel looking for abandoned food to eat. I call this activity street sweeping.
- Let your kids hold the spoon. My girls held their spoon from day 1. A lot of people thought I was crazy. But I found that letting people have their own spoon gave them a smidge of empowerment and entertainment, and thus bought me a bit of time to get food on a spoon and give it to the other person. If someone would have to wait for a bite of food and not be occupied for 3 seconds they might get pissed.
- Let them have cups and bowls. This began for us around 13 months. Prior to that I was only doing the spoon-or-tray-thing. The girls have always been good eaters but after they got their own bowls they ate more. Yes I did, and do, run into the occasional turning over of the bowl on top of the head. We didn’t do open cups with straws until 18 months. It was a real game changer. I can put just about anything in a milkshake.
- Puree everything that you can. I have always made all of the girls’ food. I have a Vitamix. It’s amazing. I pureed greens and potatoes, rice and mushrooms, turkey, and beets. Literally anything and everything. They always ate it. And what they didn’t eat turned into early lessons in art.
- Put vegetables in breakfast. This wasn’t part of my agenda until closer to 18 months. Breakfast is the girls’ best meal of the day. Dinner became the worst. I felt like I needed to make breakfast count. I put zucchini in oatmeal and serve carrot poridge. Another favorite is banana-black bean-coconut poridge. And now that we love straws you can be sure we sip kale smoothies.
- Dippin’.The Vitamix isn’t just for pureeing because babies have no teeth. I taught my babes how to dip. They love it. I slice bread sticks, pita sticks, and pancake sticks. The girls dip these items into the puree of the day. We also take advantage of short pasta for this activity as well.
- Splash bucket. In order to get my girls to wash their hands before and after they eat we fill a shallow bucket with soapy water. They splash and play and their hands get clean. Nina likes a grand finale. When I say OK bud, good splashing, that’s her cue that I am about to take the bowl of soap water away and she hammers in for one good splash before it’s over. We both frequently end up with wet pants after a meal.
- Mealtime Challenges. Nina and Lila, and especially Lila, enjoy mealtime challenges. I ask things like who can climb into their chair? and who can snap their buckles? They love to show off. Another favorite I have is to start them out eating with their hands and then pull out the forks. I ask if anyone is up for the challenge of stabbing food with a fork. The girls are usually good for 3-10 rounds and then they give up and go back to hands. The amount of coordinated effort that goes into those 3-10 rounds however, is quite remarkable.
We’ve certainly come a long way since the days of solely nursing. I’m proud of us. This amount of attention and effort to eating takes a lot of energy. I’d gather to say it’s about a third of my day. This type of activity certainly may not appeal to every parent for every meal. But what I hope for myself is that this amount of attention and effort is cultivating good eaters. And look at those faces! If nothing else, we’ve at least been having fun.