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Monday, June 16, 2008

Nobody Ever Feeds Me...

Just when you thought you had this whole parenting thing figured out, your little ones decide to change the rules. Your perfectly scheduled meal times become pointless because your little one just isn't hungry. Well, they aren't hungry until 15 minutes AFTER the dishes are cleaned away. When the dishes are put away and the mess is cleaned, you are suddenly bombarded with pleas of hunger as if starvation is imminent.

What is the busy mother to do? It isn't really possible to be a short order cook throughout the entire day. There is work to be done and messes to be cleaned. Your children simply can not eat 24 hours a day.

Or can they?

What if there was a way to satisfy the constant hunger of your child AND maintain your sanity?

Consider introducing the grazing tray to your daily routine for the sake of every body's happiness. Young children prefer to graze throughout the day instead of trying to eat larger meals only three times a day. In fact, most medical professionals recommend eating several small meals per day in lieu of the more common bigger meals that most people are accustomed to. This method of grazing allows the body to maintain a regular sugar level and helps prevent overeating and weight gain.

I touched briefly on the grazing tray previously in my Lunch Ideas post. However, I will give a more detailed description and instructions today.

To begin with, you will need to select a container for your tray. This can be as simple or as complex as you choose. Muffin tins or divided plates are good options. A collection of small bowls is also a good choice.

Then you need to consider what food you will place on your grazer's tray. This depends largely on the types of foods your child likes to eat. Temperature requirements of the food will also need to be considered.

For Kira, I set up a plastic shoe box (found at the dollar store) filled a few inches with water. I set that bowl in the freezer so the bottom would be iced. Then, in the morning, I put smaller bowls on top of the ice and filled those bowls with her foods for the day. I laid a towel on the table to put the grazing tray on. The towel also did double duty as a cover for the food to keep the cold air in and the cats out. Kira was able to easily open her tray to nibble and close her tray for later. The towel prevented a mess from the condensation and the ice kept the food at the right temperature to prevent spoilage.

For older children, you can set their grazer tray in the refrigerator on the lower shelf so they can help themselves whenever they get hungry. Of course, if you choose foods that do not require being cooled then you won't need to worry about ice and refrigerators. (This will also limit your I prefer the extra effort to keep the tray cool.)

If you have multiple small children, be sure to have a separate tray for each child. This way you can tailor each tray to the child's food preferences AND you eliminate the no sharing arguments that would be inevitable if there was only one tray. Color coding is a good idea for making sure even the youngest child knows which tray is hers.

Now that I've told you HOW to make your grazer's tray, you need to know what to put IN your tray for optimum toddler happiness. Here is a list of possible suggestions for what the little people in my house have enjoyed munching on. This list is not everything that you could include, just a few ideas to get your mind going in the right direction.

Choose a few items from the list. Be sure to vary your selections so your little one has plenty of options. Include one or two fruits, one or two veggies, one or two meats, and one or two cheeses.

-apple slices (sliced very thin)
-match stick carrots (baby carrots for older children)
-broccoli florets (steamed for younger children)
-small sandwich triangles (pbj, cheese spread, etc)
-lunch meat roll ups
-cheese cubes or slices
-olives (if your child happens to like them... )
-dry cereal
-grapes (cut in half or quarters for younger children)
-Vienna sausages (rinsed thoroughly)
-cheese sticks
-canned fruits
-nuts (for older children)
-chocolate (yes, a little bit of something chocolate, perhaps some m&ms... chocolate is always a good addition to any day)

Also, be sure to continue with your regular lunch schedules. While it is good that your child has a tray to graze from, it is also ideal to include a big meal during the day to make sure your child gets a well balanced diet.

You will find that the small amount of effort put forth to set this system up will be well worth your investment. The payoff will include a self-sufficient child and a bit of extra time for you because you won't be fixing 2nd and 3rd lunches throughout the day. When your little angels start saying how hungry they are, you can simply direct them to their snack trays.

Oh yes, one last thought, be sure to vary the contents from day to day. If you use ham and cheddar today, use turkey and Swiss tomorrow. Grapes today? Strawberries tomorrow. Don't get into the habit of putting the exact same foods in the tray every day because then your little ones will get bored and start complaining again.


Petula Wright said...

This is a very interesting concept! I am considering it... I normally make out pretty well with the three meals and two snacks (with the baby sometimes getting extras!). Yes, I know, Friday (was that Friday?) didn't go well (Hee! I got your message!), but we will see about this week. I have been to the grocery store and I'm stocked and ready! LOL.

However, you've got me to thinking about these trays. Hmmm? A trip to the dollar store is in order!

Thanks! :-)