Help Me Make a Salad
I feel silly ever offering any tips on mothering, because 1) I still feel like such a newbie in this arena, only 2.5 years into the endeavor and 2) I know every child and family are different. However, I would venture to say that for MOST toddlers I know, the struggle to get a vegetable into their small, active bodies is real.
I’ve gone from one extreme to the other since Eloise started eating table food—sometimes forcing the veggies (once Nick even blended peas into her morning smoothie!), sometimes not even cooking or offering any, which usually means Nick and I are eating fewer/no vegetables that night either because I’m not a short order cook and no one gets special treatment! One family, one meal, the end.
Anyway, I’m slowly settling into what feels like a middle ground with vegetables. Make one every night. Have it be tasty and appealing to Nick and I. Offer it to Eloise, have it be on her plate, make sure she tries a bite or two, but not be crushed or offended or think she’s not getting any nutrition if she refuses.
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to do this is a little activity I like to call “Help Me Make a Salad.” This child may be smarter than I am on most days, but sometimes I can still pull one over on her. This activity falls into this category.
Does your child want to “help” you with everything you do? Do you feel like you live day to day with a real live cling-on, preventing you from getting anything done? This activity laughs in the face of these challenges AND gets my child to eat her vegetables. It goes like so:
Put Amelia down for her morning nap. Proceed to wonder how to fill/kill the next two hours without leaving the house. Ponder playing toys with Eloise, remember that for an unknown scientific reason, every time I do so she gets fussy and I get soul-crushingly bored. Decide instead to get a jump-start on dinner despite it being 9am. Look at the meal plan for the night, realize dinner itself needs no prep because it’s chicken tender night again. Get out the salad bowl and ingredients. Let Eloise climb up on the stool to the kitchen island and feed her a snack so she’s already in food-eating mode.
CASUALLY begin to cut up salad ingredients. Instead of putting them directly in the salad bowl, place each ingredient in its own separate bowl, drawing no attention to them except maybe to comment on how “I love purple beets” or “Aren’t pumpkin seeds so delicious?” At this point, ask Eloise if she wants to help making the salad, making sure to incorporate some favorite and fail-safe toddler words like “dump” or “plop.” “Eloise, would you like to dump all the purple beets into the salad bowl?” “Eloise, could you please plop some of these pumpkin seeds in?” Yes and yes, every time.
Favorite salad veggies thus far are beets, avocado (which I don’t chop up in the morning due to browning), cherry tomatoes, bell peppers. She also “lubs” kalamata olives, black olives, and pumpkin seeds. I’d like to try sugar snap peas and cucumbers this summer. (Updated to add: she loves both! And zucchini!)
Am I late to knowing that “Help Me Make a Salad” is a pretty foolproof way to get my toddler to eat her vegetables without a fight? Any other favorite salad veggies I’m missing?