happy halloween! we have two very excited firefighters at our house that cannot wait to get outside and put out some fires while trick-or-treating later today! i thought halloween was fun before, but with toddlers who can really grasp it and are honestly living for it this year, it’s a whole new world of awesome.
i’m excited to have kelsey nixon back to share some of her ideas for creating the perfect lunches for little ones! we get into a lunch-rut more than i’d like to admit at our house with E and S so hopefully you’ll find these ideas and examples as helpful as we did! i especially love that kelsey believes it’s important to keep offering new and different foods to your little ones, even if they remain untouched on their plate, to help expand and grow their toddler palate. that’s something i haven’t thought much about but makes total sense.
As the parent of a toddler, I sometimes find myself pressing the repeat button over and over when it comes to lunches. Toddlers can be terribly picky and opinionated which makes it easy for parents to fall into the rut of making the same thing time after time simply because you know they’ll eat it. I’ve been there – trust me! Even though untouched food on your toddler’s plate can feel frustrating, I do believe that it’s essential to continue to offer up new and exciting foods to help expand your toddler’s growing palate. When it comes to figuring out just what to offer these kiddos, sometimes the best resource is just talking with other parents about what they’re having success with.
One rule of thumb that I like to follow is to try and fill 4 different categories: Fruit, Vegetable, Starch, and Protein. It’s a simple formula to run through so that you know that you’re serving a nice well balanced meal. It doesn’t always happen in our home with every meal, but we make an effort and there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your toddler love and gobble up healthy food and snacks.
Below I’ve pulled together 4 different toddler lunches that offer up some obvious suggestions and a few less obvious suggestions that may spark some interest for you and your toddler.
If you have one of those rare toddlers (like I do!) that isn’t a big fan of fruit, try offering up freeze dried fruit. They’re crunchy and delicious and easy to eat on the go as well.
We started adding multigrain crackers into the mix when I was looking for good sources of fiber and iron for my son.
The simple apple slice sandwiches are filled with peanut butter and raisins. This is a great example of using ingredients that your toddler loves in a new and different way to keep things exciting.
Finally, edamame is a huge hit with my little guy. They’re easy to eat, bright green, and an excellent source of protein.
Dried fruit is easy to reach for and satisfies a toddler’s sweet tooth.
I’m always a fan of family dinners that turn into leftovers that are ideal for a toddlers lunch. This pasta salad can easily be adapted for adults and toddlers. We make it for an easy weeknight meal and I always count on the leftovers turning into lunch (for the both of us!) By using a filled pasta like tortellini, you’re able to sneak in some additional protein, dairy, or vegetables to make the salad a bit more hearty. I seem to always have spinach tortellini on hand.
Salami slices are a solid source of protein and my little guy loves that they’re perfectly shaped circles.
Olives and an easy-to-open mini cheese wheel round out this meal nicely. Those olive usually end up on my son’s fingertips before he pops them into his mouth!
This corn salad is a family favorite recipe that always yields leftovers that my little guy loves. We tone down the spice a little bit by leaving out the chiles or you can simply combine corn, tomatoes and avocado with a squeeze of lime juice for a simpler version.
My guilty pleasure in life is potato chips, which unfortunately my son caught on to at a very young age! Serving him these black bean & quinoa chips reduces my mom guilt and he loves them.
If you’re looking to switch up your quesadilla game, try making a black bean and cheese quesadilla by keeping the tortilla flat in the skillet and slowly melting the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, turn the heat off and transfer the tortilla with a spatula to a cutting board. Carefully roll up the tortilla with the seam on the bottom and cut rounds for an easy way to serve this toddler favorite.
Finally, dried mango chips are great with jicama. Jicama is technically a root vegetable but tastes like a crisp apple. It’s a really versatile ingredient to have on hand and a great way to mix up the same old veggies and fruits that you serve your toddler day in and day out.
Plums and blueberries look as good as they taste.
Carrot & celery sticks are perfect for dipping into hummus.
I love making these mini pita pizzas by spreading a little greek yogurt or tzatziki sauce on a whole wheat pita and topping it with olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese. I dare you to not eat these yourself – they’re super yummy.
For an unexpected finish to this lunch consider offering your toddler spanakopita. My little guy loves their triangular shape and the delicious spinach and feta filling. They’re crispy and easy to hold and the perfect pairing alongside the pita pizzas. I like making this recipe for my family and freezing any leftovers to include in lunches. Trader Joes also makes a delicious organic frozen option.
Finally, what you serve your toddler’s lunch in can sometimes have just as much of an affect as the foods that you are actually serving. I love these trays that I originally found at Target (similar here) but I’m also a huge fan of these Bento Boxes when we’re doing lunch on the go.
What are the toddler lunches that you have the most success with in your home? Any unique fruits or vegetables that your little ones love? Any success stories on getting picky eaters to try new things?
All photos by Kylie Whiting.
there was a moment last night during family home evening, where the littles and i were sitting on the sofa singing the wiseman built his house upon a rock, as josh played it on the piano, that i caught samson’s eye and he gave me this great very grown up, adult like head-nod, almost to say, “i sure love you mom.” or at least that is what it felt like his little head nod was saying as he raised his hands high above his head singing about the rain coming down. (he does those song actions better than anyone around here!) but in that moment, with that little grown up head nod from my two and half year old, i felt so proud of who i am, and ever so accomplished as his mother.
sometimes i get so caught up with how ambitious or educated or talented or successful people around me in this crazy city might be, and right now with this almost 8-month pregnant belly, i just struggle to walk up the stairs without huffing and puffing. and while i feel confident in many areas of my life, i mostly just feel guilty these days because i’m struggling to get up in the morning and get anything done. so even if that head-nod was just a coincidence, and samson wasn’t trying to send me a message of love and encouragement (and let’s be honest, he’s two….he probably wasn’t), i’m still going to pretend he was. because i needed it. and it felt so so good.
i think we need to take the time to tell ourselves we are good people. good mothers. good wives and friends and women. we have to believe it ourselves, and not apologize for who we are (i find myself apologizing a lot because i always feel like there is so much room for improvement in my life), but it’s unnecessary. we are good people. and good mothers. and good women. all of us. in our different stages of life, pursuing different dreams or goals, parenting or believing or living differently from one another, we’re all good. we just need to believe it. maybe we should just start giving ourselves head-nods every morning when we look in the mirror. ha. i might do that today…
these photos are from maybe a month ago. they don’t really have anything to do with this post. they are from a different night of family home evening, when we went to play soccer in central park to practice some of the moves eleanor and samson have been learning in their soccer classes this fall. (ps- if you ever want to laugh hysterically and be thoroughly entertained, go watch some toddlers at soccer practice! sometimes i feel really really bad for their coach!)
^^^i know this photo might look to some like josh is about to kick our kids in the face with a fast ball, but i promise, it wasn’t like that!^^^
^^^samson prefers the role of goal keeper.^^^
^^^he mostly just laughs and laughs when the ball starts coming towards him. haha!^^^
^^^and then he gets all excited when it hits the net! i don’t think he quite grasps his role as the goal keeper just yet. haha!^^^
^^^and this sweet face! i can’t even begin to ever tell you what she truly means to me.^^^
^^^climbing the net is half the fun of it!^^^
^^^or getting trapped inside it!^^^
we were in chicago the other week to celebrate the marriage of some dear friends! we all met ten years ago as freshmen at juilliard so it’s been such an incredible experience as a friend to get to watch this relationship progress over the past decade and witness such a beautiful wedding last week!
a few photos below from our weekend in chicago…
^^^the ceremony, dinner and reception were just gorgeous. it was one of those nights where it looked and felt like nothing could go wrong. every detail was completely thought out and looked after, it was very special. ^^^
^^^the wedding was in the afternoon and sweet little samson fell asleep on the way to the ceremony. kind of perfect though if you ask me, because he was able to get his nap in and was ever so quiet during the ceremony. ;) i love love love this photo of him and josh during the cocktail hour because he looks so angelic and peaceful.^^^
^^^family portrait with the pretty leaves changing color behind us. and one of me and my girl.^^^
^^^eleanor was so funny trying to get the attention of sarah and finn when they were up on a balcony at one point taking pictures. she stood up on her chair and started waving her hands up and down! and here she is with one of her bffs, vic. vic brought her a koala bear all the way from australia, and it has not left E’s side at night while she has slept this past week. thanks again, vic!^^^
^^^the fun thing about a juilliard wedding is that it makes for a mini juilliard reunion as well. can’t believe that ten years later here we all are watching those two crazies in the middle tie the knot!^^^
^^^the day before the wedding, the peninsula hotel in chicago invited E and S to try one of their peninsula academy experiences, so we all went on a chicago fire house excursion. i guess it’s a program “for young firefighters-in-training” to see what it’s like, but with all the practicing and pretend E and S are always up to, they didn’t need any help knowing what to do around the firehouse. fireman’s pole: check. driving the engine: check. putting out a fire/spraying real firefighters with water: check!! the firemen were some of the nicest guys we’ve met, and i think they might have had some influence over eleanor and samson’s newest request to be firefighters for halloween! ^^^
^^^the firefighters let them take full control of that tiny hose! i honestly don’t think they’ve ever had so much fun! they got this cute little system down where they kept rotating between one pumping the water and the other spraying the hose like ‘sharing’ was their middle name! that sort of thing sharing magic doesn’t happen every day around here, so it was a proud moment for me to watch them do it well and enjoy working together to use the hose.^^^
^^^down the fireman’s pole we go!^^^
^^^during some wedding prep i had to attend to one day, josh took the kids to the children’s museum at navy pier. they have a tinkering lab where kids can build and create things. when i got back to our hotel, the kids kept talking about it nonstop and so josh pulled out his phone to show me a few photos of their day. i looked at these pictures and was like are those real hammers and nails?! anyway, yes. they were. but the kids had a lot of fun and no one got hurt. :)
^^^another fun part of our trip was getting to meet up with friends, the jones’ who we first met in DC and now live in chicago, and the coulsons, who were in town from australia. both of these families are some of our favorites, so it was great getting to catch up and spend some time together in person.^^^
^^^we also enjoyed one of our best meals at antique taco. everything was delicious. but especially that duck fat flautas.^^^
^^^and helping choose a winning pumpkin outside the taco shop was serious business for mister samson. he liked the dinosaur pumpkin the best. (i wish i’d grabbed a photo of it. it was very cute.) ^^^
ps. i posted this little video of E and S on my instagram, so you may have already seen. but we snuck into the empire room at the palmer house where we were staying because we wanted to check out where judy garland, frank sinatra, ella fitzgerald, and tons of other stars had once stood and performed. the kids got right up onto that stage before i could and started improv-ing a little show for us. they are such characters! it was definitely a highlight.
like most parents, josh and i try hard to keep screen time with our kiddos to a minimum. in the beginning when they were babes it was like, “no way. never. they will never look at or touch a screen!” (oh the things we say before we’re parents, or as new parents. i’m so guilty of all of it…) then we were introduced to baby signing time by a friend when eleanor was around a year old (i can’t recommend it enough ps, it’s so good) and after she picked up several signs the very first time she watched the DVD with us, we realized not all tv shows or apps aimed at children are bad. many are incredibly educational and fun for them, and when used in moderation, can be a great tool. a few of our family’s most favorite apps below…
this app is especially fun for the tinier ones, since it’s all about learning animals names and sounds, and is also quite interactive. they have several versions, like peekaboo forest and peekaboo safari. the barn version’s our favorite, and it was a big hit with E and samson still enjoys using it.
tiny sorting hands
this one is great for matching and sorting! it has several levels too, so you can start with colors or seasons or shapes and move onto more problem solving and logic.
this app is probably my all time favorite kids app! sometimes i find myself kind of stealing the phone or iPad away from my kids to play! it’s all about composing your own music by layering different sounds and tracks to build a song. and it’s not annoying music either! which is maybe why i’m so into it. i swear i could sing the “la! la! la la la laaaaaa!” all day and it wouldn’t grow old. ;)
bugs and bubbles
we love the bugs and bubbles app because it shares several different games and challenges from physics and memory to fine motor skills.
intro to letters by montessorium
this has been an especially useful and fun app for eleanor lately as she explores reading and writing and phonetics more. we looked at several different types of apps similar to this one over the past few months for eleanor, and this montessori approach to letters and phonics has by far been our favorite.
have you found any children’s apps you love? what are your favorites?