Birdie started four year old kinder last week. And I started my new occupation: kinder lunch maker. As the title suggests, it’s a whole new world.
Last year she only needed a snack which I found difficult enough sometimes, particularly when we don’t eat much dairy, and the kindergarten has a no egg and no nut policy to boot.
We are big nut and egg eaters and I find my options slightly limited when they are taken out of the picture. Factor in a fussy four year old who keels over at the sight of anything green and only eats two mouthfuls at any given time and you’ve got some challenges on your hands!
Last night I was motivated by my sister to make some gelatin jubes for the kinder lunch box today (my favourite recipe here). What is meant to take 15 minutes ended up taking two hours after I accidentally blended up a foil easter egg wrapper in the final mixture (Prince Charming is still questioning me on how it got into the blender… I have no answers), moments before I was ready to pour into the moulds. Bye bye to over 10 tablespoons of grassfed gelatin (anyone who has ever bought this will be feeling my pain), two oranges, a few apples, acai powder, flax oil and some sweat.
Yes: I did shed a tantrum induced tear over the kitchen sink as I poured my foil laden tincture into the compost.
By this time I had also run out of most of my ingredients resulting in the jubes (pictured in heart shapes above) tasting rather foul in my humble opinion, but both kids were asking for more this afternoon, go figure.
The girls are going through such a fussy time, being forced to make kinder lunches has motivated me to find some meals I am happy to feed them, that they are equally happy to eat… no easy feat.
Birdie came home from kinder the other day and said in disgust: “Alexander ate a little tomato today.”
“Oh, did he get it off the plant?” I asked.
“No, it was in his lunch box.” she replied, her face filled with horror. To open her lunch box and discover a cherry tomato is one of Birdie’s worst fears. This is what I am dealing with.
In my searches this week I’ve found a few new, a few rediscovered, and a few daily used (by me) resources:
As we prepare to plunge into introducing food to our second child, the Pixie, I am reminiscing about Birdie’s food journey. I’ve been wondering if there is anything we need to change this time around, which foods first, prepared how and so on.
From her first ever mouthful pictured above to now, nearly 3, I have to say she has been a pretty fantastical eater. She’s good. Yes there are foods she doesn’t like. Yes sometimes she doesn’t want to eat and then complains fifteen minutes later that she’s huunggg-wwwyyy!!! But on the whole, she eats. And she eats well.
My Mum was amazed at one point at what Birdie was eating compared to another little gal we know of the same age. I don’t have any huge tricks, and no doubt the Pixie will blow all of this out of the water as she tends to do, but here are some of the food guidelines we have stuck to which I think have helped us get to where we are today, and which I will be repeating for Pixie. If you like them, feel free to try a few yourself. If you think they suck that’s ok too! You have to do what works for you. That should be the first food rule. Actually, doing what works for you should be the first and last parenting rule!
:: No sugar. We didn’t introduce sugar until Birdie was about two years old. She had her first bit of chocolate a month before she was two, at Easter. Please note that this choice is not for everyone. We copped a hell of a lot of flack and sent back a number of baby-cinos (can you believe what turns up on a baby-cino?) but I would not change this for anything. She still rarely has sugar, we save it for special occasions like family celebrations and that is usually it. People gave us a bit of stick and said we were being mean and depriving her so on, but I personally believe we have done her a huge favour. Besides, how can you be deprived of sugar if you don’t know it exists? I could go on and on here, woah Nelly.
:: Persist. They say (don’t you love “them”?) it takes at least three times for a child to try something and decide whether or not they like it. I have found this to be absolutely true. It would take me all week to list the things that Birdie has turned her nose up at, only to finally eat, chew and swallow happily after it has continually landed on her plate. It would be so, so easy to fall into the trap of avoiding putting certain things on her plate because you are pretty certain she won’t eat it. That doesn’t happen here. She gets all the things she doesn’t like over and over and over again and I don’t think there is one thing that she hasn’t eventually tried and even liked. Persist, persist!
:: Don’t offer a back-up. By this I mean, we don’t give Birdie her meal and then when she doesn’t eat it, give her something else. What she gets is what she gets. She learnt pretty quickly that there wasn’t going to be any chasers.
:: Learn about your child’s eating habits. Birdie is a grazer, as most toddlers and small people are. Kids don’t eat like adults do. If she has a good go at her lunch or dinner and says she’s had enough, I leave her plate there for a bit. Nine times out of ten she will have a play and say she’s hungry again after 15 or 20 minutes. I learnt this one the hard way!
:: Get the veg in! Following from the tip above, I know that Birdie eats her best and the most in the morning. So we often grate carrot or other veg along with apples or whatever is in season into her porridge. Wallah! She eats it and doesn’t know any better! I also try millions of different ways of serving/cutting/slicing veg and sure enough she might like one of them. Veggie juice is a favourite around here, and frozen veggie juice is an even bigger hit. Bless her, she’s none the wiser.
:: Serve wholesome food. Homemade, homegrown, basic, simple, real. As much as possible.
:: What’s good for the goose… Once we had introduced all foods into Birdie’s diet, there was no longer a need to present her with a different meal. Ever since her gut and digestive system have been ready, she has eaten whatever we eat. As a result, she eats normal food, not special kiddie food. And I make and prepare one meal only. Of course if we want to eat something really spicy for example, I will take some out for her before I add the spices.
:: Take your own food. I always pack Birdie morning tea/lunch/afternoon tea when we are going out. This way I don’t have to buy anything, she’s happy and always has something good to eat, and I’m happy watching her eat good things.
:: Give yourself a break. The 80/20 rule people! I don’t beat myself up if I give her packaged food when we are camping, or if I haven’t done a food shop and I need to buy her something when we are out. This doesn’t happen often so when it does, I enjoy the break and she enjoys a treat.
:: Involve your child. Birdie helps with every meal, be it in the preparation or collecting various items for me from around the kitchen. She has also recently begun setting the table, which is now her “job” each meal. When given the choice she will always opt to help in the kitchen instead of play with her toys or read or do anything else. She loves cooking and she loves trying different things while helping out. Just the other week I turned around in the kitchen only to find her chomping on a whole mushroom that was on the chopping board ready to be chopped. It’s a great way for her to experiment and try different foods without one of us thrusting a spoon in her face.
:: Eat as a family and lead by example! As often as we can we all sit down together for mealtimes. If Birdie is having trouble eating something or doesn’t like the look of something, we try it all together from our own plates. Without making a fuss, just seeing us eating all our veg and enjoying our food is helping her develop a positive relationship with food.
There are probably many other things that have become habits for us over our kid-feeding path that I can’t think of right now. Instead I will share with you some of the resources that I have found invaluable when trying to get my head around everything from introducing food to feeding a small person to transporting food to packaging and so on:
Recipes from introducing food to age 7. And so much food information. Sometimes I don’t have all the ingredients on hand but this book has been by far my most used resource on this topic. I totally love it.