Toddler Dinnertime and Parent’s Work Schedule

The objective is to eat as a family even when the parents have a busy working schedule. The daughter is picked up from daycare post work and home is reached by around 5.15 PM. Husband works till late in the evening and gets home by 7.30 PM, meanwhile, the toddler goes to bed by 7 PM. Curiosity is about eating with the kid or the husband or both and how to actually complete the cooking while chasing the toddler. There is a possibility of making couple of meals to be had together as a family each week, with option being on the weekends. At times it is also possible for husband to reach early from the work in the middle of week. There is also a time sure to come when multi-tasking may not be a challenge, when the kid is old enough to entertain with the toys, or old enough to even contribute with basic food preparation. At the moment it is acceptable to prepare separate meals for a one-year-old, as long as the kid is being presented with variety of flavors and textures and introducing new foods on a semi-regular basis.

Short-order cooking is problematic when separate meal is made for the child who is refusing to it. That could as well have been a meal prepared for the family. In case of rejection of food A, mom works immediately to present meal B as an alternative. Chicken or vegetables may not be liked, nor would the spaghetti be liked, only a pizza may be opted for. Eventually it is tiring for the mother who may end up stopping to offer food A or B and focus only on pizza, macaroni or nuggets from the word go, to avoid the dinner time battle completely. This is the type of short-order cooking putting the toddler in charge of the dinner, and as the mother may want the child should not be control of the dinner. Eventually there may be additional rejections, even ones that were previously accepted, until the child is made to live on plain buttered noodles at all times. You just need to stop focusing on the fact that a separate meal is being prepared, instead the toddler’s meal should be treated as you would treat that of a family. You may end up offering variety of food, prepared in way that is accessible and safe for the kid. And the kid will eat whatever is put in front of her now, maybe not all of it, but this is not your responsibility. Food that goes uneaten should not be replaced with anything else, and any left food should not result in “Eat It” battle. Try offering foods rejected in the past even if they are still easy or microwaveable.

Pledge to buy at least one new food for her at the grocery store each week. We are fortunate to have a family schedule that allows for most weeknight meals together, but Sunday afternoons are still used as a kid-friendly meal-prep time. Lunchbox-friendly mini-muffins are baked, a week’s worth of sunbutter-and-jelly sandwiches. Toddler dinner prep can be done the same way. Make a big batch of veggies when husband is around watching, then portion in containers/bags and freeze them. There is a chance to be more creative by whipping up own meatballs, fish cakes, veggie patties – all things that really don’t take much time, and freeze and reheat in a snap during the week. This may sound like the last thing to be done over the weekend, and if you really can’t or just don’t want to, even that is fine. It is just about sharing what has been found pretty relaxing and very satisfying, knowing how much time has been saved while making foods that are healthy and delicious for kids, during the super busy week.

Finally, when there is a plan to sit down and eat with the child, there are two words that need to be considered: slow cooker. Make the meal the night before, after the daughter hits the bed. Throw everything in the slow cooker, use the programmable cooker one with a delayed start to avoid dreaded “Oh God I left for work and forgot to turn the slow cooker on.” Thereafter you can eat with the child and mode the “you eat what the grown-ups eat” expectation without having to actually cook and care for the child simultaneously. There was an instance when slow cooking used to happen when our boys were young, and it used to happen at least two or even three times a week. You are also sure to end up with great leftovers that can be used the next day as well.

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