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Toddler breakfast ideas

hi hounds,

am hoping you can help me out ... i've got an almost-2 year old little guy and am in a breakfast rut.

he USED to eat oatmeal religiously every morning ... loaded with coconut oil (to fatten him up) and hemp hearts. we do french toast every once in a while but recently, that seemed to fall out of favour. pumpkin pancakes were also hit-and-miss.

this morning, there was practically NO breakfast ingested ... just lots of tears (on his part) and frustration (on my part). he gets morning snack at daycare pretty much as soon as he's dropped off and sometimes he eats three servings and sometimes he eats nothing.

i have a protein shake every morning and he enjoys having some of what i'm having but even today, it was a miss.

anyway, would love any toddler-friendly breakfast ideas that we can either make a big batch of on the weekend or the night before.

thank you ... from a tired chow-mom.

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  1. I don't have any easy weekday ideas as my little guy ate breakfast at daycare but I will say the "loved until yesterday and now won't touch it with a ten foot pole" behavior is very common with toddlers and little kids.

    10 Replies
    1. re: cleobeach

      hi cleobeach,

      did your little guy have a snack at home? or anything before he went off to daycare?

      1. re: lilaki

        No. I would give him a small cup of juice. He liked the Bolthouse Farm smoothie/juices.

      2. re: cleobeach

        This. My 17 month old is usually a pretty enthusiastic eater, but this morning all of the sausage and bagel (that was happily eaten on Tuesday) went to the dog. He got a big bottle of milk in the car on the way to daycare, and a few crackers, which are his current obsession.

        I learned after years of frustration with my eats-like-a-bird tiny kid 6 year old, that Ellyn Satter has it right. It's your job to provide nourishing food, and his job to eat it.

        We do a lot of french toast in the morning, sometimes oatmeal or peanut butter toast or cream cheese and jelly sandwiches if mom's in a rush. If I'm making a green smoothie, I'll share it. I always offer a big glass of (full fat, even for the six year old) milk. Nothing is going to be eaten every morning. They also do get bored.

        1. re: Savour

          We have the cracker obsession at our house, too... First graham crackers, now "cheesy" crackers.

          Another fan of Ellyn Satter here. Also, another tip from Ellyn Satter is that remember, they may not eat a balanced diet at every meal or even every day. What they pick and choose typically balances out over the course of a week. So, they might eat a no meat two days in a row, that sort of thing.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            i love the ellyn satter book. it was like a breath of fresh air. we were referred to a dietician this summer because my guy is really skinny and she pretty much echoed the book.

            just want to have a list of tasty breakfast foods that we can rotate through. even though i will have the same thing every morning for months on end, clearly, my kid wants some variety!

            that said, i think i will go get some graham crackers...

            1. re: lilaki

              As a fellow mom of a skinny kid (Thing 1 wasn't on the charts until she was about 3), I understand the drive to find SOMETHING they will eat. But I can also say that the establishment will drive you nuts about kids being too skinny until they're 3 and then too fat, but there are other indicators you should really be looking at - meeting developmental milestones, active, happy kids, hair and nails growing and healthy. Some kids are just going to be skinny.

              I of course know nothing about your personal situation.

              A couple of high calorie/protein foods that have always gone over well in our house are oatmeal with egg in it and salami. We eat a lot of french toast in various guises too (flavored with pumpkin butter, with maple syrup, with cheese and ketchup ...)

          2. re: Savour

            I hadn't heard about the Ellyn Satter book and just looked it up on Amazon. I love that there is one chapter called "Is Your Toddler Jerking You Around at the Table?" I need to read that book!

            1. re: pellegrino31

              You can probably find it at the library. I liked her books but found them worth reading once and never felt the need to own any.

              1. re: pellegrino31

                I work with children in my profession, and I will say that Ellyn Satter is amazing. Also look up Katja Rowell. The most important thing is to not make food a battle ground. Please read Ellyn's book if you have any involvement in a child's mealtime (parent, caregiver, etc.). It can make all the difference in the world.

                In terms of breakfast foods - really anything your child enjoys! It doesn't have to be something that's particular to breakfast (i.e. doesn't have to be a waffle, eggs, etc.) Try foods he enjoys at other times of the day too.

                1. re: lovessushi

                  My children's favorite breakfast food is probably pizza.

          3. My experience is that whatever you get right will be all wrong six months later. Up to about 6 years I'm afraid, but don't rush it by, it's a time to be treasured.

            Annabel Karmel was a great help to us:


            1. Breakfast things my kids enjoyed at that age:

              Scrambled eggs w/ WW toast fingers
              Zucchini muffins, made ahead, frozen, thawed in microwave
              cubes of cheese
              hardboiled eggs
              smoothie with plain yogurt, banana, strawberries and a bit of milk

              All of the above were messy as hell, I will admit.

              Also, please don't worry about it much. If he is getting a snack at daycare, he is not going to starve whether he eats at home or not.

              1. http://karenlebillon.com/books/Get the book.
                ( Something wrong with the address.
                It's called 'French Kids Eat Everything'.
                It could change you and your kids life for the better if you follow her guidelines. IF.

                1. Everything you listed is soft-textured. Try for something crunchier.

                  Is he eating what you serve at dinnertime? Maybe offer dinner leftovers for breakfast.

                  Waffles? The crispier texture and shape might entice him.

                  Sliced bananas - may be frozen.

                  Cheese sticks.

                  Does he want stuff he can pick up with his fingers, or is he wanting to use fork & spoon to feed himself.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: MidwesternerTT

                    Good point about texture. My 16 year old likes to eat hard crunchy things still - as a toddler he loved frozen corn and continues to eat it as an afterschool snack. Hey, whatever.

                    1. re: tcamp

                      fork, spoon, fingers ... any delivery method is all good with this guy as long as he does it HIMSELF! :)

                      yes, he eats what is served at dinner (except vegetables ... let's not go there).

                      did waffles for a bit ... seemed luke warm to them.

                      will look for crunchier things ... thanks!

                      1. re: lilaki

                        My nephew was always more interested in a leftover meatball than a muffin or fruit.... Whatever works!

                  2. My son (now a preschooler) usually eats peanut butter sandwiches with jam or honey on whole wheat toast for breakfast. And my daughter, who is 16 months and doesn't like sweets, usually eats a piece of toast spread with peanut butter and cut into little pieces. You can't make this ahead but it is certainly quick, easy and healthy (which is why we do it so often). And in my house it always goes down with no complaints.

                    Another idea would be to make muffins which you could freeze and then defrost in the morning. Melissa Clark had a good-looking recipe recently in the NYT, which has been on my list to try. This wouldn't be my first choice for breakfast though because even a "healthy" muffin has a lot of sugar. However you could try these sugar free banana-chia muffins, which my kids do like, and they are very easy to prepare: http://www.runningtothekitchen.com/20...

                    Another idea is plain, full fat yogurt, my son will eat it plain or lightly sweetened with honey or maple syrup. You could also add fruit or granola if your son would tolerate those additions (mine wouldn't).

                    The other thing to keep in mind is that at around age 2 kids reduce their food intake substantially and become extremely picky/choosy, even if they used to eat a large variety of foods. Also my son started to become very interested in sweet tastes around that time. Maybe your son just isn't very hungry at breakfast time, or maybe he is holding out for daycare snack because he likes it better (maybe it is more sweet/less healthy than what you serve at home? if so, you could just try changing up the oatmeal so that it has a different (and possibly sweeter) flavor)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Westminstress

                      thanks for reminding me about yogurt ... my guy will gobble it down ... completely plain!

                      and i forgot about eggs ... he loves those...

                    2. Mine is 2.5 and we've got the same issues
                      Her current favorites
                      - chobani flips
                      - oatmeal w/ pb and raspberries
                      - smoothies
                      - waffle sandwiches (mini eggo w/pb& jelly)
                      - whole wheat toast w/cream cheese and an olive "face"
                      - Cheerios with milk and banana
                      - leftover rice with plain Greek yogurt
                      - baked oatmeal (very diff than regular oatmeal)
                      - mini muffins
                      - avocado toast

                      A friend of mine gives her super picky eater a soft pretzel with cream cheese and cinnamon

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: cheesecake17

                        wow, you are very creative! i'm impressed, my kids eat the same thing for breakfast almost every day (to be honest, though, i think they like the routine of it).

                        1. re: Westminstress

                          I try. My kid will open up and chat about what she expects of her day while she's eating. So I really try to make an effort.

                          She loves fruit -- we're always choosing "new" things at the supermarket. She gets to choose the fruits, and when she picks them, she eats them.

                          Today she asked for green grapes, pineapple, mango. And we picked some persimmons from a neighbors tree.

                        2. Breakfast doesn't have to be breakfast food - my 3yo will happily eat a cheese quesadilla (+/- beans) or English muffin pizzas for breakfast. Creative terminology also seems to help: putting his scrambled eggs with cheese ON the toast/English muffin and calling it a "cheesy egg sandwich" does wonders.

                          1. It's so crazy and tiring; I understand what you're going through - I have a very determined 16 month old on my hands. Some days he's very hungry, other days he just wants a cracker and milk. I generally find my little one eats better/more variety at daycare then he does at home - I think it's watching his little friends eat or something - so I try to pack more variety for his weekdays.

                            Egg omelets with cheese have been the standard breakfast for awhile. Prior to that it was waffles with cream cheese. My son also seems less interested in french toast these days, though he likes the syrup.

                            We make buckwheat pancakes (actually a mix of buckwheat and white flour) and that has generated some interest.

                            My son also likes avocado which he eats in chunks but it could also be spread on toast.

                            I also made some spinach/egg/cheese bites from Weelicious that were happily eaten one day then thrown on the floor on subsequent tries. They were delicious though, my husband and I ended up eating them ourselves.

                            Whole wheat muffins with blueberries or raisins also do well around here. I recently saw a recipe in the NYT for muffins with grated vegetables that I've been meaning to try.

                            Does your son eat meat? Maybe he'd try sausage or something like that?

                            Good luck. Eventually they grow out of this, right?!

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: pellegrino31

                              do you have a recipe for buckwheat pancakes that you'd be willing to share?

                              i made those spinach bites ... and because i'm overly ambitious, i made a double batch. i thought they were delicious. my little guy was NOT impressed. hah!

                              and yes, he does eat meat ... thanks for the suggestion ... i'll pick up some breakfast sausages at the butcher this weekend.

                              1. re: lilaki

                                Absolutely - we use the Cook's Illustrated pancake recipe. We usually halve it which then results in 1 cup of flour. We've found that a ratio of 2/3 cup white flour to 1/3 cup buckwheat strikes a nice balance.

                                I'm relieved to hear others having similar struggles with their toddler and food. Before I became a mom, I had all these visions of having a mini Chowhound which I know might happen eventually but for now we're in heavy rotation with PBJ/mac and cheese/grilled cheese and the like.

                                1. re: pellegrino31

                                  "Before I became a mom, I had all these visions of having a mini Chowhound..."

                                  ROTFLM*O! love it.

                                  i had the SAME dreams. reality sunk is PRETTY fast around here! let's not even get into the ongoing vegetable-strike that my guy is on. sigh.

                                  i'm just thrilled he gobbled down PB/banana baked oatmeal this morning! SORT of chow-ish. i'm trying. :)

                                  1. re: lilaki

                                    :) There's so much pressure on being the "right" kind of parent these days that I forget that a lot of this is trial and error. The truth is that we're doing the best we can. It's not always easy to remember when we're struggling over breakfast.

                                    I also have a stepson (he came into my life when he was 3.5 years old) and I remember up until age 5 or so, eating was always some kind of drama because he was so interested in doing something else! Then as he got older he realized it's actually better to eat and then he can go on with whatever else he'd rather be doing.

                                    Awhile back he was with his mom, his mom's friend and her daughter. Daughter was 5. Stepson was 8 at the time. He told me about a meal they had and he said about the daughter: "She ordered a cheeseburger and then it arrived and she didn't want it! She wasted food and money!" All we could do was laugh and tell him yep, that's what little kids do.

                                2. re: lilaki

                                  If he likes sausage, he might like sausage balls. The recipe makes a big batch that you can freeze. You can substitute scratch ingredients for the Bisquick if you prefer. You don't have to use a muffin pan; just roll the mix into small balls before baking. I don't think the recommended sauces are necessary.


                                  My boys loved cheese toast when they were toddlers.

                                  1. re: Tara57

                                    oh wow - sausage balls look really tasty!

                                    um ... what is cheese toast? melted cheese on toast?

                                    1. re: lilaki

                                      To make cheese toast, you just toast a slice of bread and top with a slice of cheese, then microwave or broil to melt the cheese. Make sure it cools for a minute before serving.

                                      1. re: Tara57

                                        You could also turn the toaster on its side w/ the cheese on top. That was the special treat I could make when I was too young to cook.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            "Duh," she said, smacking side of head with open palm.

                                            1. re: tcamp

                                              Just be careful w/ the popping power of the toaster. I remember doing it w/ a new toaster and having the bread shoot out onto the floor. Face it towards the wall.

                                3. My daughter just ate leftover dinner. There's no reason breakfast has to be traditional breakfast foods.

                                  If you want traditional breakfast, tried baked oatmeal. It's like an oatmeal cookie. Can be heated or not.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: chowser

                                    thank you for the baked oatmeal suggestion ... i saw a recipe yesterday for that and thought it looked interesting.

                                    1. re: lilaki

                                      Baked oatmeal is a winner. I cut the sugar and dried fruit a lot and use lowfat milk.

                                      1. re: lilaki

                                        upon your suggestion, i made baked oatmeal last week. i thought it was DELICIOUS. little guy, not so much. i tried a different recipe last night and used quick cook oats instead of large flake oats ... he demolished it for breakfast today. AWESOME!

                                        1. re: lilaki

                                          Good to hear! I love to play w/ variations (my favorite is to let it sit overnight, add a some cream about 10 minutes before it's done cooking). And, I love it reheated the next days.

                                    2. Many of the posters have good ideas . I think texture may have a lot to do with choices at various stages . I dont have a toddler anymore but i remember a big issue was wanting to hold the food in her hands . So cheerios on the table with milk in a cup separately, a bagel with cream cheese or jelly or ricotta cheese . Orange slices, apple slices , hard boiled egg slices , yogurt was preferred at lunch but not at breakfast !! Also cheese slices (mild like muenster)
                                      I also remember she ate completely different food at Grandma's with out a peep .such as sardines at lunch!! And as others have pointed out , next week or next month she was tired of her favorite . Maybe open the fridge and let the child point to something .there ? And maybe he just wasnt hungry yesterday ...... ..

                                      1. When we're in a hurry, even though none of these can be made in advance:

                                        -full fat yogurt and blueberries (as long as they are small enough not to be a choking hazard--you don't have to chop them, just rinse and drain and they're ready to go),
                                        -scrambled eggs (even though they can't really be done in advance) with a slice of whole wheat toast
                                        -a slice of whole wheat toast with a thin layer of butter (per pediatrician's orders so it won't be a choking hazard) with a thin layer of peanut butter on top of that.
                                        -you could also do a slice of whole wheat toast with a little cream cheese spread and jam, but our guy won't touch it with a 10 foot pole suddenly anymore. :)
                                        -He also loves ham, which is pretty easy to griddle up and slice into to fingers for him


                                        11 Replies
                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          tdq ... help me understand ... the choking hazard comment...what's the hazard? the toast? the PB? my guy will DEVOUR PB off a spoon ... (now i'm worrying)

                                          and he loves cream cheese too ... but he only wants to lick it off the toast/bagel/whatever.

                                          i've resorted to just giving him PB or cream cheese in a little bowl now! :)

                                          1. re: lilaki

                                            Sorry, didn't mean to throw a curveball at you.

                                            OK, crazy, I know, but according to my pediatrician (who I think is pretty non-fussy --well, at least she's a lot less fussy than I am, which may not be saying much-- so this kind of blew me away when she told me this at his age 2 well-baby check in response to, are there any foods that are still off-limits at this age? ), peanut butter can glob on the roof of their mouths and somehow cause a choking hazard if the bread is still attached to it. But, if if there's a thin layer of butter on the bread first, I guess the bread would unstick from the PB should the PB stick to the roof of the kid's mouth and be less of a hazard.

                                            On the topic of globs of pb, here's what babycenter says:

                                            "Peanut butter: Be careful not to give your toddler large dollops of peanut butter or other nut butters, which can be difficult to swallow. Instead, spread nut butter thinly on bread or crackers. You might want to try thinning it with some applesauce before spreading it."


                                            This may be one of those things where you just have to decide for yourself. Maybe your toddler is a very adept eater and you don't see these as risks at all. But, you might want to supervise him closely.


                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Fascinating, TDQ, and good to know. My partner will be relieved to know that there's a medical rationale, and not just a high fat deliciousness rationale, for our 5 year old's love of butter and nut butters together...except of course, she's probably old enough that it isn't really a choking hazard for her, and she's not so into gobs.

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen


                                                i had no idea. but good to know. and totally makes sense.

                                                oddly, my guy only wants to lick the peanut butter OFF the toast and never wants to eat the toast. we just give him little (baby) spoons of PB and he's happy as a clam. and yes, we're always around when he's eating (anything).

                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Another thing about peanut butter--
                                                  Make sure to wash your child's hands and face well after a breakfast containing peanut butter.
                                                  This is actually a "rule" at my daughters preschool, due to allergies

                                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                                    If you were aware of an actual peanut allergy in your child's daycare or preschool environment, you could switch to sunflower seed butter. There are none where we go so we stick with PB for the most part, though I like to switch to sunflower seed butter on occasion just for variety, anyway. Don't want to get too fixated on just one taste or texture...

                                                    Nevertheless, I don't see eating peanut butter as the trigger to wash hands. We wash hands anyway. Before and after every meal and frequently throughout the day. Kids wash their hands upon entering their preschool classroom at the teeny, tiny sink that's right inside the door.

                                                    We also attend a play session once a week through our local public school (long story, it's a Minnesota thing, but early childhood education starts at birth here, if you want it). Again, there's a washroom at the entrance to the classroom where children are required to wash their hands before playing. No severe contact peanut allergies in that environment, either, despite the fact that about there are about 20 different groups of children that flow through the program each week. There is a child with a severe strawberry allergy in one session, though, and we are asked not to bring strawberries as snacks. (Yuck, out of season anyway.)

                                                    Good hygiene is always a good idea


                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      I agree, and I actually asked the head teacher about it. She said when a mother has several kids to get out the door by 9am, it serves as a good reminder, especially if the breakfast is not messy like a sandwich.

                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        The sunflower seed butter is actually quite good - we have to use it when I give my son sandwiches for daycare; the facility is nut-free.

                                                        1. re: pellegrino31

                                                          We like the sunflower seed butter, too. It's just not as available as PB, I think. But I always buy it when we're close to running out of PB if I'm in a store that has it.


                                                  2. re: lilaki

                                                    A friend of mine makes "fruit cream cheese" and spreads it on roast, waffles, pancakes...
                                                    Basically, diced fruit (pineapple, pears, apples) and berries mixed with cream cheese and cinnamon.

                                                2. Something easy and tasty that you can make in your cock pot in the morning!

                                                  1. Treat the crock with a non stick spray, then turn it on high and cover.

                                                  2. Rip up 4 pieces of whole wheat bread and throw them in the pot. Beat 4 eggs with 1/2 cup milk and pour over the bread. Top with your choice of grated cheese.

                                                  3. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

                                                  Easy for you, delicious, and the cooking aroma just might entice your little guy to chow down!

                                                  Good luck!

                                                  1. weelicious has some great muffin ideas, they are too low in fat to meet my def of great toddler food so I always had an extra T of oil, they freeze better than way too. My kids like the apple/spinach, banana-chocolate (with less chocolate), and berry the best

                                                    pancakes freeze well- multigrain Joy of Cooking is very good, sub buttermilk

                                                    toad in the hole
                                                    scrambled eggs in pita
                                                    cherrios with milk
                                                    full fat greek yogurt with a little jam
                                                    1/2 pb&J
                                                    1/2 turkey or roast beef sandwich

                                                    My daughter in particular simply isn't quite hungry when I need her to eat so portability is important + she is more likely to eat if I cut it in half and say half is required, whole if you want

                                                    1. I can't believe I didn't mention quiche or fritatta, most hilariously because I was actually working on meal planning and my shopping list yesterday and was planning a quiche to have on hand to pick at over the weekend! I often make those in advance to serve as breakfast or lunch during the week.

                                                      If your child will eat quinoa, I like this quinoa pudding from epicurious (thanks to a 'hound who recommended it in some thread several years ago though I no longer remember who, sadly). We cut back the sugar by 2/3 - 1/2 and use fresh berries (because I personally detest raisins) and serve it with yogurt instead of syrup. Leave out the nuts for a really small child.



                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        I like to make mini muffin size quiches and frittatas. They freeze well.

                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          do you have a good quiche recipe?

                                                          i used to make a spinach/cheese quiche ... little guy (aka "i hate vegetables") wouldn't touch it. tried to pick out all the spinach. sigh.

                                                          1. re: lilaki

                                                            I never seem to use the same one twice, sadly. Ham always works for us... or bacon. But lately he's hated the crust (he has not yet learned that the crust is the best part!)



                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              my little guy has recently fallen in LOVE with ham. i'll look for some ham quiche recipes. or maybe even a ham/something muffin recipe. tks!

                                                            2. re: lilaki

                                                              I make a very simple "quiche"- veg, cottage cheese, egg whites, salt/pepper, sautéed onion and garlic. Sometimes I throw in a little shredded mozzarella.

                                                              For the veggies, frozen peas, steamed broccoli, lightly cooked eggplant or zucchini, sautéed mushrooms...

                                                          2. My daughter used to -- and still does -- love cornmeal pancakes (to which you can also add pumpkin). I'll post the recipe if you're interested. We also used to make her a flat omelet in an 8" cast iron skillet and add different things like defrosted peas, or a little cheese. Quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas were always a hit, as was granola, with or without milk or full-fat yogurt. Apple or banana muffins are easy and keep well. What else . . . egg in the hole, or sometimes just the egg with the toast round, or just multiple toast rounds. Good luck! Hang in there!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: TerriL

                                                              oh yes - i'd love the recipe for cornmeal pancakes! thanks!!

                                                            2. I used to make a "steamed egg & rice" that my son loved when he was around that age. Basically I take a couple of eggs, beat them, add a bit of cooked white rice (prev. day's), put into a small rice bowl and steam it until cooked:

                                                              (stock photo)

                                                              And some seasoning if he preferred savoury that day. Or if he asked for "weet", I'd just add some evaporated milk or honey. Sometimes some cubes of bread in the egg mix works too.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                My kids love something similar, except I scramble the eggs and rice together in a frying pan with a bit of butter.

                                                                1. re: tzurriz

                                                                  Oh that's too good to give the kids, that's reserved for us parents :-)

                                                              2. My younger daughter never liked breakfast foods (still doesn't really, at age 25), but would happily eat soup for breakfast. I really didn't care, as long as she ate something. Turkey and cheese roll ups, vegetables and/or fruit with a yogurt dip. She was happy to start her day with some protein.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: susan1353


                                                                  Aside from sugary cereals (which my son doesn't like anyway, and we don't buy any), my son (now 7) is happy to eat brekkies like soup (loves miso soup with firm tofu cubes), lil' cucumber & ham bite-sized sandwiches (crust cut off), mini carrot or zuchini muffins, etc.

                                                                  I recently started making inari: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inarizus...

                                                                  And doctor the sushi rice with some diced peas & carrots, strips of omelet and/or ham, then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds or nori. It's a GREAT breakfast and lunch option. He now says he loves my cooking waaay more than Mom's :-D

                                                                  1. re: susan1353

                                                                    Susan, since your daughter is 25 and you now have the benefit of hindsight... I always worry that if I feed my child anything other than what I'm planning to serve the rest of the family for any given meal, that will evolve into him expecting that I will be preparing special meals just for him. Did you notice that expectation in your daughter?


                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      I'm not Susan but I'll share my experience.

                                                                      First of all, is there reason why you want to serve your kiddo something different than what the adults are eating? (apologies if I missed some sort of allergy or developmental issue)

                                                                      In general, our meal times operated under the umbrella of "kiddo will eat at least one of the items being served" and I meal planned with that in mind. Some nights he loaded up on shrimp and didn't touch the veg I put on his plate, other nights he seemed to eat his body weight in veg and didn't touch the steak he loved just a week before.

                                                                      Now, I don't mean to come across as the perfect mother because many times, my husband fought me tooth and nail on this method because he (husband) would freak out and assume kiddo was going to starve by morning. (for reference, my kiddo has charted in at 99% since birth in weight and height.) but I stayed the course and overall, I am pleased with our son's eating development.

                                                                      All that being said, there have been times I made something special when I knew he truly disliked what I was making. I can't say it caused any ill effects aside from him asking for "meat ball soup" more often than I would like.

                                                                      1. re: cleobeach

                                                                        No, quite the opposite. I'd rather serve my toddler exactly what I"m serving the rest of the family, but there are days when it might be easier just to serve him what he wants than put up with the whining. But, I fear if I cave in even once, I might end up feeling like a short-order cook for the rest of my son's childhood.

                                                                        I was just curious if Susan had that problem with her daughter or not.

                                                                        What we do (per Ellyn Satter) is try to serve everything family style and let everyone at the table serve themselves. We always make sure that there is something toddler likes on the table (well, at least he liked it yesterday anyway). So, if breakfast is oatmeal with berries, instead of mixing the berries in (as I would probably normally do for convenience sake), I set out separate bowls of oatmeal (questionable), blueberries (a sure thing), and maybe a tiny dish of brown sugar and everyone, including my toddler, helps them themselves.

                                                                        He might eat only the oatmeal, he might eat only the berries, he might eat them both but separately, or he might eat them together, But it's up to him to choose and we try not to harangue him into eatinh anything other than what he chooses from what has been offered. We might set limits as in, that's all the blueberries we have in the house and when we run out of blueberries, there are no more. So if you're still hungry you might have to eat some oatmeal.

                                                                        So, all of our meals always have at least two elements, often with fruit or vegetable or toast or crackers separate.


                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          Sometimes the kids eat with us, sometimes not (as an aside, sometimes we eat at 9 pm because we've been so busy feeding the kids and getting them to bed.) We have an expectation that when we're eating together, we all eat the same things, but there are certainly plenty of times when they eat separately and I make, not necessarily 'kid food', but probably not, say, kimchee fried rice either. (sometimes the kids get leftovers from previous night's grownup dinner, or rotisserie chicken or a turkey sandwich)

                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                            It sounds like you have it covered, try not to overthink it! I am a fan of Satter as well and I think her teaches are sound and reasonable.

                                                                            I completely understand the grind of the whining, oh the whining! The whining In our house isn't food related, it is centered around other things. How much giving into it and how that will "teach" the about getting what they want probably depends on the child.

                                                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          I never prepared special meals just for my children. My mantra was--this is not a diner. For breakfast, however, since I had two kids on different morning schedules, the meal was not a sit-down affair for the entire family. I had no problem fixing her a bowl of soup, or whatever she wanted, as long as she put something in her belly.

                                                                          As they got older, I certainly tried to plan dinners that I thought everyone would enjoy, and they generally did. If a meal wasn't to their liking, the rule was that you had to sit politely while everyone finished their meal, then you were allowed to fix your own sandwich, nuke some soup, or grab a yogurt.

                                                                          There was never any expectation that I was preparing special meals for them... they knew me better than that :)

                                                                          1. re: susan1353

                                                                            Makes sense. Thanks for sharing your strategies with us! They will come in handy down the road, I am sure!


                                                                      2. We cycle through all things mini in our house - mini muffins, mini quiches, anything that my son can hold in his hand. He is a bit easier than his sister was at this age since he sees her eating and that encourages him.

                                                                        When she was this age (and much tougher in the AM), I would give her some cut up fruit along with whatever the main breakfast was - oatmeal, cereal. Not on top so if she wasn't interested in the main dish, she would still pick at the fruit. That gave her two options to pick from and at least would get something in her belly!

                                                                        1. A favorite of ours is the cheesy taco. Take a corn tortilla add some shredded cheese and melt. My little guy, who is 5, has been in love with these since he was 2.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: super_b

                                                                            Good time to add the fish and cabbage ;-)

                                                                          2. Ok...I just thought of a few more. Quinoa with Bragg's and cheese. Quinoa or rice with a fried egg on top. Cheese toast. Sausage of any sort. Fried eggs with toast points to dip. Or when all else fails, toast with a great deal of butter or Nutella (if I really need to bribe him as he will do anything for chocolate). My little man has never been too into sweets at breakfast.

                                                                            1. my toddlers are fully grown young adults now but what I did to make my life easier and reduce the guilt was dedicate the bottom shelf of the fridge and the bottom drawer in the kitchen to anytime foods, fridge had cheese stix, fruit, yogurt, cold cut roll ups, hard boiled eggs, fruit smoothies in small water bottles (with a little prep time a coldcut roll up could become a quick quesadilla) then in the drawer we had fruit snax, pretzels, crackers, granola, individual bags of nuts...you get it, my kids had free reign to help themselves anytime but it really came in handy as we run out the door for whatever..errands, daycare, later, sporting practice. It really became ingrained in them and it was always funny with their friends....they would stop by and "raid" the drawer and shelves becuase it was empowering to them to choose, conversely my kids didnt get it for a while that nobody else had this system. I still keep the drawer going... the kids are 21 now, ha ha!

                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                              1. re: momoftwo

                                                                                We have the same system. It works out really well, since she can choose her own snack. And I can limit what goes in the drawer/ fridge.

                                                                                1. re: momoftwo

                                                                                  I love that idea. How old were they when you started? And "anytime"--even right before dinner?


                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    I do this with my 3 yr old too. We started it around 2 when she would open the fridge on her own and peruse what was in there!

                                                                                    She knows what she can grab from the fridge or the pantry. I let her eat something even if it is before dinner since the options are all on the healthy side. Our deal is that she has to sit at the table during dinner and at least try what we've made. The best part is that now in the morning, she gets out her own yogurt or cereal and helps with getting breakfast going.

                                                                                    1. re: TracyKaplan

                                                                                      Thank you. I think I'm going to try this. So far, we let our guy get an apple out anytime he wants, but I haven't really taken that next step of putting other stuff in there. Packaging, I think, is the issue (he can't really open his own yogurt or cheese), but it's fine for him to choose it and then have to ask us to open it, I think. I have a basket of shelf-stable stuff snacks sitting on the counter, too, but as of right now, he can't reach it. It sounds like it's time to put it at his level.


                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        I would slice up cheeses and put them in small glad containers. Same with snap peas, carrots, raisins,etc. kids seem to love small packages for some reason. apples were hard for my son because he didn't like biting into them (and neither do I) so I would keep them washed and ready to be sliced. Little containers of nuts are a hit in our house as well.

                                                                                        My son will eat huge amount of carbs if allowed so I kept the "free" snack selection to things I was ok with subbing for parts of the evening meal. Like veggies, if he ate a cup of raw snap peas of a snack at 5pm, I didn't care about how much of the meal veg he ate. (I do, however, always put it on his plate and encourage him to try it.)

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          Try it. When it comes to packaging, my daughter will ask for help. (I prefer it that way so I know what she's eating)

                                                                                          I don't worry about it affecting her dinner. If anything, it takes the "edge" off dinner.

                                                                                    2. re: momoftwo

                                                                                      love this idea!!

                                                                                      we're moving in a few months and will be buying a new fridge ... will keep this in mind when appliance shopping!

                                                                                      1. re: lilaki

                                                                                        I gotta tell ya, it's made them life long good food choosers! If that makes sense. We had the same deal with dinner, try everything, sit at the table, none of this I'm not hungry stuff! It was never an issue for us. Also once they start to be really active, they are always hungry and by then they know what smart choices are, even if they have 2 or 3 things before dinner, they are healthful and if they don't eat a huge dinner, you know that if they get hungry later, again they are grabbing something healthy! It's a win win.

                                                                                        1. re: momoftwo

                                                                                          Concern activity- a friend of mine is a farmer (real farmer, not a hobby farmer) and his wife is totally perplexed by the main stream idea of snacks, pickiness, etc. because her kids are working on the farm and always hungry and vacuum down whatever is on the table.

                                                                                    3. Kids can get tired of eating the same foods over and over again, just like adults. :)

                                                                                      At that age (one just turned 10 and the other is 7), my kids liked variety. I used to make:
                                                                                      pancakes - plain, or using applesauce or mashed banana for variety
                                                                                      toast with butter and jam
                                                                                      scrambled eggs, with or without shredded cheese mixed in
                                                                                      hard boiled eggs with salt/pepper
                                                                                      cream of wheat made with milk, with maple syrup and brown sugar or with strawberry jam for sweetness
                                                                                      fruit salad
                                                                                      yogurt parfaits -- yogurt topped with cut up berries and granola
                                                                                      cereal! Cheerios and milk were always a favorite
                                                                                      English muffin with butter and jam
                                                                                      parathas - Indian stuffed whole wheat flatbreads. You can stuff them with traditional fillings like spiced potatoes, or paneer (indian cheese) but my kids also like "my" versions like shredded cheddar cheese with minced onions and spices, and scrambled egg. Can be eaten plain or dipped in plain yogurt

                                                                                      1. Breakfast in our house today was a variety.

                                                                                        5 year old had microwave scrambled eggs on toast
                                                                                        4 year old had a bowl of fruity pebbles and an apple
                                                                                        1 year old had cheerios, 1/2 a scrambled egg, and 2 slices of apple

                                                                                        Mama - ummm, I forgot to eat. ;)

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: tzurriz

                                                                                          "Mama - ummm, I forgot to eat. ;)"

                                                                                          LOL. isn't that always the way!?!?! i find that if i don't make my smoothie at night, i'll NEVER eat anything in the mornings. so i'll blend everything up before bed, store it in a mason jar and then throw in my protein powder in the morning. not ideal but it's better than the days when i don't eat at all!

                                                                                        2. Ok, one more tip. The OP's son is a bit young now but in a couple of years, here is how you use reverse psychology to get them to try things.

                                                                                          While child is looking on, stand in the kitchen looking at various food items in pantry, fridge, freezer, etc. Pick items up, stare at them thoughtfully, and say something along the lines of "oh, too bad this isn't for kids." Repeat with several different items before settling on something you know kid likes. Some kids will just go crazy at the notion of being prevented from having those forbidden fruits. This is how my younger son came to try, and love, shrimp, lamb, artichokes, brown rice, and many many other foods.