5 Ways to Get Your Toddler to Eat Everything

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Yep, that’s my 3-year-old digging in to a plate full of octopus tentacles.

I love food.  Some might say that I like it (and think about it) too much. One of my first memories is sitting at a raw bar at age 3 and my parents giving me an oyster. The people sitting next to me clapped as I slurped it down, and I felt so proud.

So I asked my parents recently what they did to encourage me to eat everything (especially since I learned later in life that my mom is actually quite picky). Here is what they said:

  1. Delay the carbs: Children love pasta, bread and all things carbohydrate. So start your meal with protein and veggies when your child is really hungry. If you have a pasta or rice dish, bring it out a little later.
  2. Don’t tell your children what they like or don’t like: I remember this being a cardinal rule when my brother and I were young. My parents would get frustrated when their friends would proclaim their child didn’t like something before even trying it. My parents knew that children’s tastes change all the time. A child won’t eat something for months, and then one day it will become his favorite food. But if a parent says their child doesn’t like something, this negative reinforcement can often solidify a child not liking a food, even if they’ve only tried it a few times.
  3. Make your kids try everything: There was a rule at our house that you had to try everything on your plate. You didn’t have to eat it, but you had to try it. If you didn’t eat it, there was no talk of not liking it. Our parents told us that because tastes change, you had to try it at least ten times.
  4. Involve them in the grocery shopping and cooking: From as far as I can remember, my brother and I were always in the kitchen helping out. My dad also loved grocery shopping and passed that on to both of us by involving us. Recently, my 2 year old started demanding to unload the entire cart himself onto the conveyor belt, so I now clear a space for him inside the cart, plop him in and let him have at it. As young children, we saw shopping and cooking as a fun activity, and eating the foods we prepared was a key part of that.
  5. Make them eat the same food you eat (and eat a variety of foods yourself!): My parents never became short order chefs. We ate what they ate. The same went for restaurants. We never got to eat chicken fingers off the kids menu. They either ordered us half portions of regular meals, or if the restaurant wouldn’t do that, we ate off their plates. My mom’s (mostly hidden) pickiness aside, my parents ate interesting foods themselves, which modeled for us a varied palette.

This is what my parents did (and what I’m trying to do with variable success with my own child). What do you do to encourage your kids to be good eaters?

Your Toddler Will Make a Mess: Two Amazing Tools for Cleaning Up After Them

I just added two cleaning devices I wouldn’t want to live without onto my Mamajamas list.

As my child has gotten older, the idea that I own a cream colored couch seems more and more preposterous. Granted, I got it on Craigslist, but it’s a nice Pottery Barn Sectional, and I’m attached to it. But let’s be honest, with a toddler around, my poor couch takes a real beating.

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So I originally looked into upholstery cleaning services, and they are not cheap! I’d be spending a fortune trying to keep up with all of the dirt and food stains (and coffee and wine stains–okay, so I can’t completely blame my toddler). Instead, I found my new favorite cleaning product of all time, the Bissell Little Green ProHeat Multi-Purpose Cleaner. This little guy steam cleans all my couches and chairs no problem and also the rugs. It’s pretty much a miracle product.

It’s a little annoying that they make you buy their cleaning solution for the machine, but I do appreciate that they offer a green cleaning product (although I can’t vouch for how “green” it actually is).

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Second, if your child is like mine, they have gone (or are going to go) through a very long phase of messy eating. Whether it’s unintentional spillage, or the dreaded “dropping and throwing food to see what will happen” stage, keeping my kitchen floor clean is a constant struggle (and the only time I’ve seriously considered getting a dog).

At first, I was using the swiffer wet jet, and it worked okay, but it felt really wasteful with all those disposable pads, expensive (because you had to buy your pads and their brand of cleaning solution), and their cleaning solution was really stinky and toxic smelling.

In searching for an alternative, I discovered the incredible Rubbermaid Microfiber Spray Mop.

You add your own cleaning solution (I just use vinegar!) and it comes with two washable pads. Problem solved. I love this thing.

Parenthood is messy. The need for me to constantly be cleaning up after my child was one of the life changes I most underestimated before having a child. I would have never appreciated these products pre-kids, but now I’m so grateful for tools that can make my life just a tad bit easier!