The Tiny Critic Series

Meal times at our home, are a time for family. It’s a time for us to talk, laugh, and have a good time. We even sometimes play board games during dinner, go for a picnic, or even eat outside in our own backyard.

Meals don’t have to be serious. You can make them fun and silly. In fact, I’ve found that my children are more likely to eat something that amuses them or appeals to their interests.

So, I put sprinkles (a.k.a. sparkles) on cottage cheese and yogurt, bacon smiles and apple eyes on pancakes, and a dot of pink food coloring in oatmeal.

Not all of our meals are this colorful or exciting, but sometimes making your meal a bit silly can be fun for the entire family and much more fun to gobble down!

What’s Cooking Today:
Breakfast: Popcorn Cereal
Lunch: Hot Dog Spaghetti
Dinner: (Honey Mustard) Green Ham

Pictured: My daughter, Ady, at 7 months old, enjoying snack time.

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Centsible Cooking is kicking off this week in full gear and we’re starting off by answer a question I am asked all too often –
How on earth do you get your children to eat that?

Now first, let me say, I’m not an expert by any means! The advice I give is just from my own personal experience and each child is different.

And second, do they always eat everything I make… sure… okay, no, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.

Now, let me start off with a story.

We were camping in style. Hanging out in the middle of the woods, my dad pulled out a dish of spicy cocktail sauce and jumbo shrimp. Figuring my daughter Ady, who was two at the time, wouldn’t touch them, he sat them in front of her at the picnic table and walked away. When he turned around half of the shrimp had disappeared and my two year old’s huge smile was covered in red sauce.

Children can be so funny. What makes them decide they’ll enjoy a food or hate it before it even hits their lips? It could be anything from the name of the food to the smell. But if every dinner is a fight, it really it becomes more of a stressful time, than a time for family.

So, why did Ady pick up the huge shrimp and not balk at the spicy sauce? Because she’d been enjoying shrimp since since was a baby. I think this is one of the key reasons my children eat some odd foods that aren’t typically considered kid-friendly.

When Ady was just starting solids and our pediatrician went through the lists of food she couldn’t consume until she was over the age of one, she left out shellfish. Whoops! As a first time mom, I followed the rules to a T and introduced each fruit and vegetable one at at time, letting her enjoy them each for three days to make sure no adverse reactions appeared. Once we went through the required foods and eased our worries about food allergies, I headed to Babies ‘R Us and picked up a manual food grinder for $10.

After that, whatever we enjoyed, Ady enjoyed as well. This was good for both of us, because she got to explore many new foods, while I wasn’t cooking separate meals for her. On top of that, I didn’t spend hours making my own baby food or spend money buying tons of jar baby food. And best of all, it forced me to really think about what I was cooking to make it healthier and appropriate for her, so it forced my husband and I to eat healthier.

Where I went, my grinder went with me. I even ground up Thanksgiving dinner at my grandma’s. Eventually, I upgraded from a manual grinder to my Magic Bullet
to make it easier on my poor arm. But, as Ady got older, she ate everything we did, because that is how it had always been.

Now, like most children, she did go through a VERY picky stage where she wouldn’t try new things, but through it all she still gobbled down shrimp salads and Lima beans without a complaint.

What’s Cooking Today
Breakfast: Apple-Cherry Oatmeal for Family & Baby
Lunch: Chicken Salad Sandwiches for Family & Baby
Dinner: Garden Risotto for Family & Baby
Pictured: My daughter, Izy, at 10 months old, enjoying beef and sweet onion enchiladas. Yes, she has so much enchilada sauce in her hair, it’s standing on end. But, look how happy she is!

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