Here's how it all started.
I had just served my two year-old son a perfect dinner mashup of quinoa and goat cheese, apple slices, roasted potatoes assembled in a smiley face and some edamame.
I called him to the table for supper and watched as he casually strolled over, glanced at his plate and knocked it to the floor. He did this so breezily that it took me a minute to even register what just happened.
My little baby who used to reach for every item on my plate had been replaced by the snobbiest (and okay—rudest) food critic I had ever met.
Things had to change. And they did. Here's how I did it.
I Started a "No" Bowl
Everything I had read about a toddler wanting to take control of their choices was spot-on. I introduced my son to a "no" bowl where he could decide that if there was something on his plate that he didn't want to eat, he could place it in the bowl.
I did this mainly to make sure no more plates were tossed onto the floor, but I also wanted him to feel he had control over what he was eating at dinner time. I also got a better sense of what food he truly liked (blueberries and cheese) and what always got the heave-ho (chicken and anything with pesto).
I Gave Him Dinnertime Tasks
With the help of a crinkle cutter and some baby cucumbers, I started asking my son if he could please help us with dinner. I'd prop him at the table with a cutting board and some vegetables that he could chop up and add to our own salad. He loved this routine and it made him more excited about dinner too.
I Introduced the "Stomp and Chomp"
In order for anything to excite my son, it usually has to do with a monster or dragon or dinosaur. One morning after he was refusing scrambled eggs (a normal crowdpleaser), I told him he could eat them like a monster using the "stomp and chomp" tactic.
You "stomp" your food with your fork and you "chomp" it in your mouth like a monster.
Those scrambled eggs disappeared. And he still hums "stomp and chomp" when he eats breakfast.
I Offered Choices
Newsflash! Toddlers hate being told what to do. If I ask my son if he wants an orange or blueberries, cheese or rice - easy swaps at meal time for me to make - I have a better chance of getting him to eat it.
Have meal times gotten a lot easier? Absolutely. Is it always perfect? Nothing really is with a toddler. But as long as these things are working, we'll get there together. Even if it means inviting monsters to dinner.