Ever since Annie first started to eat solid foods I’ve tried my best to make sure that she ate well. I read labels, went through a phase where I tried (in vain) to create a broccoli shake that kids would love, and even subjected myself to a stomach turning toddler food taste test. Today I’m proud to say that, as a result of my efforts, Annie’s favorite food is kale, she loves to snack on steamed white fish and vegetables, and her dessert of choice is a raw tomato.
Like a lot of toddlers, Annie often has me shaking my first at the sky and screaming, “Why are little kids such psychos when it comes to food?!”
I remember years ago watching my sister ask her son what he wanted to eat for dinner and thinking that was the wrong way to go about it. “You don’t ask them what they want to eat!” I wanted to say. “That only gives them the control! You tell them what they’re going to eat! Show ‘em who’s boss!”
Well, I now know that “showing ‘em who’s boss” is easier said than done. Too often I’ve played “boss” and made Annie a dinner of my choosing only to have her refuse to eat it. Eventually, I got tired of cooking food she wouldn’t eat and started to give her the choice between two options.
“Okay, Annie. Dinner time. Do you want chicken or spaghetti?”
“That wasn’t an option, Annie.”
“Something else please.”
Something else. Grr.
So, yeah, we’ve had a bit of food drama. Over time we settled into a small group of foods that A) Annie liked, and B) Heather and I approved of her eating. Despite that I really wanted Annie to branch out a bit more, and the more she ate just from that small group of food the more averse she seemed to trying other foods. This concerned me, and lead to me often saying, “Try it! Just try it! TRYYYYYYY ITTTT!”
Thankfully, I recently discovered a way to get the kid to be a bit more adventurous with her food. Annie, you see, has been going through a major “Can I do it?” phase, so when I told her I was going to make dinner one day she said, “Can I help?” In the past I’d have told her that cooking was mommy and daddy stuff, but that day I decided to let her help. Turns out that when Annie plays a role in preparing the food (even when she only does something minor like stirring) she feels ownership over the food and is much more likely to eat it. Since then Annie has eaten a number of new foods which is terrific even if she’s made a mess or two thousand. (It’s acceptable collateral damage, though).
This weekend I was living especially dangerously when I decided to make omelets, and Annie ran into the kitchen and asked, “Can I help?” That lead to this heart stopping moment:
What’s beyond awesome? Annie cracked the egg into the bowl without incident AND ate some of an omelet.
Hopefully Annie will soon grow out of her picky eating phase, but until then I don’t mind having a little sous-chef by my side (even if she is a messy one).