From Tami: Toddler Eating

Parents Feeding Baby
Eating. Everyone does it, but no one does it quite like toddlers.

I mean, older kids can be incredibly picky eaters (goodness knows, I have a few of those I can lend you around dinner time), but toddlers are in a league of their own.

I have had toddlers eat the same thing—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—for months on end. I have had toddlers fall asleep into their plates of food, with a pillow of mashed potatoes or with a long piece of spaghetti trailing from the mouth. I have watched in disbelief as toddlers who broke into the pantry try to close their mouths around the sheer volume of food they managed to snatch, dripping tinted strings of drool (mouthfuls of prunes leave a particularly nice drool-tint).

One toddler loved the idea of tomatoes. Not actual tomatoes—he hated those. Maybe it was the vibrant color. Maybe it was the fact that his older siblings loved them. Maybe they were shiny and lovely and round, and his toddler mind couldn’t imagine them as anything but delicious. He would do everything in his power to get his hands on tomatoes. He would take a bite, make a disgusted face, and…promptly vomit. Every. Single. Time.

And yet, he never stopped reaching for them. He never stopped trying to take them off of other people’s plates. Other mothers must have thought I was cruel, withholding tomatoes from him when he so clearly wanted them, but he would vomit without fail. You could set your watch to it: ingest tomato, wait five seconds, vomit.

Needless to say, I was pleased when he was old enough to recognize that he didn’t like tomatoes. (Sixteen years later, he still tries them occasionally. He wants to like them, so badly. He still doesn’t like them, but at least he can keep them down.)

I had two napkin-averse toddlers. One of them decided that her hair was a good substitute, and used to constantly rub her dirty hands along her head. When she would eat, I had to watch her like a hawk, napkin in hand. As soon as she seemed to be done eating, I had to intercept her hands on their way to her hair. Sometimes, I blinked, and when I opened my eyes she was happily cleaning her own hands. I wasn’t always near a bathtub after she ate, so sometimes I had to do the best shampoo job I could with a wet napkin and just let her be. My friends used to (half) joke that they could identify her whole days’ menu from looking at the top of her head.

My other napkin-hater was sneakier. You would never know, from outward appearances, where he cleaned his hands. He would let me clean his hands, no problem, and so there was even a brief period where I didn’t realize that anything was amiss—again, if you turned away for a minute, you missed it. So what was his napkin substitute?
Under the table.

He would surreptitiously slide his palms under the table, leaving a film of food and grease behind. Cleaning that was a nightmare—I had to get under the table and scrub, hard, to remove old veggies, grains, gravy, and sauces. It was a blast.

But at least they are eating, right? I had one toddler who really didn’t eat anything, so I’ll take a messy eater over a barely-eater any day of the week. For all of the mess, at least you’ll have a good story to tell them when they are older. I’m sure you have quite a repertoire of stories already, though. After all…

You’re a SuperMom.


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