The Fun Dinnertime Activity That Gets My Picky Toddlers to Eat

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This is the sort of mealtime activity wherein you throw any old-school notions of dinner-table mannerisms, behavior and not playing with one’s food right out the window if you’re concerned with any of that.

Clearly I am not. And for good reason. I’ve experimented quite a bit with toddler food wrangling. That’s what we call it around here; the ongoing battle with the world’s pickiest eaters. Not just mine, likely yours and yours too. It’s all just a part of where they are developmentally and not wanting to have every ounce of their lives controlled.

This activity puts some fun back into mealtime and helps foster conversation. Not to mention it gives kids the chance to learn about food and where it comes from, and thus helps them develop their vocabulary. It’s also excellent for engaging the 5 senses — sensorial play such as this while eating has proven to help take away the daunting thought of dishing up dinner in our home. In fact, we’re such fans of this simply executed activity that we’ve extended it past the dinner hour and have turned into a big drawing, coloring, spelling and printing session, which for my little ones is a great way to merge the different stages of where they are at, developmentally speaking.

Click through to discover how you and your family with young children can enjoy this simple, engaging food-centric activity! (I was amazed at how much of their dinner they happily gobbled up, marveling at each and every morsel, all because I had turned it into a game especially for them.)

  • On Playing with Your Food … 1 of 9
    00-2

    It's a good thing. Trust me.

  • Set the Scene 2 of 9
    01-9

    Simply lay out a big sheet of butcher paper or art paper. (We use a lot of the big roll variety around here because it's prime for taping down big sheets right on the floor for pastel/crayon/paint/marker creating.) I roast a chicken once a week, which lasts for a couple of meals (stir-fry, sandwiches, fajitas, etc.), if we aren't having company. Fresh from the oven and sliced for easy picking as seen here with seasonal, fresh veggies and hummus dip. Peaches and watermelon with coconut yogurt for dipping. We all have letter magnets and puzzles, yes? Use those as shown above. End scene. (You're done!)

  • Eat, Drink & Be Merry 3 of 9
    02-5

    Get messy, and savor it together. Talk about all of the food — where it all comes from or how it grows. Talk about your food's scent and color. Encourage your kids to have some fun with it! We don't typically allow our kids to sit on the table, but this occasion calls for bidding such rules adieu. 

  • Have Dessert Before Dinner 4 of 9
    03-6

    This would be one of those rare times when I encouraged letting them go back and forth between nibbles as they pleased. Expect full-on chatterboxes and questions all about food. Lots of excitement about food! This is a good thing.

  • Catch Them in the Act 5 of 9
    04-5

    Embrace their messy mugs, and catch their comical expressions. May they be happy with full bellies!

  • See & Spell 6 of 9
    05-7

    Not just all about eating, this game is about spelling too. Take away letters at random and ask them to put them back where they belong — or let them play around with them and reading aloud as they wish.

  • Tidy Up 7 of 9
    06-7

    Have lots of napkins on the ready, and encourage them to build on their life skills development. Wiping and cleaning their own hands and faces, wiping down the table, bringing their dishes to the sink.

  • Have a Post-Dinner Art Session 8 of 9
    08-7

    Turn all of those words into pictures and have a colouring free-for-all! Abby can focus on her fine motor skills, and continue to practice holding crayons and markers properly to colour and draw, while we practice pronouncing the words of whatever our dinner spread was. Language development like BOOM! Wyndham can take away the magnets and complete spelling out the words and help draw pictures of those food words! This is otherwise known as winning, and before you know it, it's bedtime.

  • Expect Resistance 9 of 9
    07-9

    No one ever likes to stop having fun. Especially toddlers. However, with the mere mention of a bubble bath, you can quickly turn those frowns upside down as this little collage clearly attests to.

Do you have any meal-time activities that facilitate in raising happy, healthy eaters? Your own playful and funny meal-time stories to tell? Share them at Happy Family’s Facebook page for a chance to win $20,000!

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More Babbles From Selena…

Selena is a crafty, culinary mom. Regular writer here and on Disney Baby. Part-time mischief maker, all the time geek. Proud of her Anishinaabe roots.

Elsewhere on the internets…

Via her humble beginnings, mastering in general mayhem: le petit rêve

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