This post includes affiliate links.
Why is at that some of the most stressful times of day for families are often meal times? I mean… shouldn’t our kids just want to eat? Should it really be this difficult??
Following Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding has really helped me feel less stressed during mealtime in our house. Basically, my husband and I are responsible for what, when, and where my kids eat. My kids are responsible for whether they eat and how much they eat.
This means sometimes my kids skip meals. Sometimes my kids astound me by eating their quinoa, kale, and salmon eagerly. Sometimes they eat nothing but the gobs of ketchup that they've licked off of their fingers and I don't say a word. I choke back the threats and the bribes. I smile. And I pray that they eat more tomorrow. (Which they pretty much always do...)
While I generally trust my kids to eat what their body's need, I do try to make mealtime as fun and engaging as possible. I do think that parents have the power to make healthy food appealing to kids and make them more likely to eat it! There are a few tricks I have up my sleeve, a few products I have in my kitchen cabinet, that pretty much guarantee my kids will eat more off of their plate.
So... without further adieu... my top 9 favorite products for making mealtime fun (and helping my kids eat more healthy food!)
1. ezpz Happy Mat - I LOVE this product for toddlers because these mats suction to the table, cutting down on mealtime mess and making meals less stressful for everybody! My kids love their bright colors and love that their food stays in the little divided sections.
2. Cookie Cutters - The moment I make my kids' food a fun shape they become exponentially more likely to eat it! A turkey and cheese sandwich? No thanks. Turkey and cheese sandwiches shaped like people? We'll take 5!
We like using the Funbites in our house to cut sandwiches, cheese slices, and fruit (like watermelon or cantaloupe) into fun, bite-sized shapes. We use traditional cookie cutters (any that you have around your house!) to cut sandwiches, pancakes, fruit, cheese, and meat into special shapes.
3. Candy Googly Eyes - Okay, this may not be the most healthy choice, but it gets my kids really excited about eating. Put these cute candy eyes on your kids' sandwiches shaped like people or dinosaurs and there's no way your child will be able to resist! I also love to put these on Earth's Best fish nuggets because they are shaped like little fish and are just too adorable when you add a candy eye!
4. Learning Tower - I adore our learning tower. We use it every single day. I love that it allows my kids to be involved in cooking with me but keeps them safe! When our kids are involved in preparing their food, they're more likely to eat it!
5. Kids' Chopsticks - When we sit down at the dinner table and my kids seem reluctant to eat, taking out a pair of chopsticks is one of my first moves. Not only do chopsticks get my kids to eat more food, and healthier food, but they also allow them to practice fine motor skills and build the muscles and coordination that will help them write! We have the Chimp Sticks below which I like because they're easy to use and clean.
6. Toothpicks - I like to make "deconstructed" sandwiches or salads for my kids using toothpicks. I will stack meat and cheese on a toothpick for a different take on a sandwich. Or tomatoes, basil and mozarella cheese on a toothpick for a fun way to get my kids to eat a caprese salad. Sometimes I also just give my kids a toothpick and encourage them to use it as a utensil - stabbing their food and eating it! You can use wooden toothpicks that don't have sharp points or can try these pick-ease toothpicks that have fun animals or pictures.
7. Squeeze bottle - For this trick to engage kids in eating, you can buy squeeze bottles, or can just wash out an empty ketchup/mustard bottle and use that! I love filling squeeze bottles with pancake batter so that I can easily make pancakes of different shapes. I also love putting dressings or dips in squeeze bottles so that I can make fun designs on my kids' food or plates. A big greek yogurt letter "A" squeezed onto a slice of watermelon makes eating fun and gives my young children exposure to the alphabet!
8. Zoku Popsicle Maker - I love popsicles because, like smoothies, you can sneak lots of healthy stuff into them and your kids will still devour them! The Zoku "Quick Pop Maker" is my favorite because it makes popsicles in only 7 minutes! We use it constantly during the warm summer months.
9. The Spiralizer - My kids LOVE raw spiralized vegetables! If I put a tray of veggie spirals on the dinner table with a few colorful dips in the afternoon, I can be guaranteed my kids will get some veggies in their body that day! Add to that all of the tasty recipes that you can find online, and this is a fun and useful kitchen gadget for families.
What are your favorite products for making mealtime fun??