A cunning mom came up with an ingenious hack to make sure her picky toddler clears his plate – by turning breakfast time into a fake birthday party.
Megan Stevens, 33, was struck by a flash of inspiration in March when her three-year-old son Rudi woke up one morning and said, “It’s my birthday.”
Instead of correcting the boy born on November 19, Megan, who runs a hair salon with her husband Jamie, 39, took the opportunity to throw a faux party – serving breakfast on party plates, putting on balloons and decorations, and festive hats put on.
Distracted by the razzamatazz, the picky eater Rudi happily chewed through a plate of fruit, yoghurt and muesli without complaining. This prompted his mother to continue pretending that he was on a balanced diet.
Concerned that changing routines due to Covid-19 restrictions would encourage his fussy eating, Megan, who also has a daughter Nola, said for four months: “I thought Rudi’s excitement was a phase, but the longer it lasted, the more concerned became i have.
“I was very aware that he was still growing and wanted him to have a full stomach and enjoy the food the way he used to.”
“I can’t say exactly how many mini-parties I gave him. I do it about once a week, although sometimes it’s less frequent,” she continued.
“He helps me set up. We get out a special tablecloth, put up decorations and balloons and eat from party plates. It was also a nice thing to do lockdown to relieve the boredom. “
As a tiny boy, Rudi mixed into his meals happily and without fuss, according to Megan, who remembers people who commented on what a good eater he was.
But the older he got, the more picky he became – his tastes kept changing, and something he found delicious one day he’d hate the next.
Megan said, “It’s gotten worse in the last six to eight months. Oddly enough, Rudi goes well with fruits and vegetables, which are often difficult to get toddlers to eat.
“He’s very picky about other things – especially meat. He’ll change his mind from one day to the next. One minute he’ll love something, the next he won’t eat it.”
When the Covid-19 ban was imposed in England in March, Megan feared that the changed routine would make Rudi more cumbersome.
This was a widespread concern, according to vitamin and supplement brand Natures Aid, whose research found 67 percent of parents are concerned about the impact the pandemic is having on their children’s eating habits.
While more than half of the mothers and fathers surveyed have given nutritional supplements to children, many have tried to make eating more fun. 23 percent gave fruits and vegetables silly names, and six percent used props, such as dolls, to encourage eating.
Megan said, “The first lock threw everyone’s routine out the window.
“Rudi wasn’t in kindergarten and I was pregnant with Nola, so we were both at home the whole time. Since I was pregnant I was extra careful – I didn’t want to go out unnecessarily because I was scared of catching Covid.
“As a parent, so much of your daily routine revolves around meal times that it was difficult to make sure they stayed on track. With so much time to think about it, I began to worry that Rudi would become even more picky. “
She found a unique solution when Rudi falsely announced it was his birthday in March when she took the opportunity to make meal times more of a party.
Megan, who runs a successful Instagram blog about her life as a mother of two, immediately broke the monotony of the lockdown by throwing an early morning celebration.
She said: “During the lockdown, I was probably more relaxed with Rudi than usual because he no longer had to go to the children’s room in the morning. Instead of hiding his mistake, I went with them.”
“I have a large box of old party decorations like balloons, hats, masks, paper plates, cups and a tablecloth that I took out,” she continued.
“I set it up like a mini party for him and he absolutely loved it. He ate his breakfast without a fuss, which is unusual for him.
“Some mornings he will refuse to eat forever, which will put us on our backs for the rest of the day.”
According to his mother, who said he rounded off his breakfast without a fight, he enjoyed enjoying meals and distracting Rudi with party items.
Realizing that she had found a great way to encourage him to eat a balanced diet, she began throwing him more and more mini breakfast parties.
“On average, I do them about once a week,” she said. “Sometimes Rudi will suggest it and sometimes I’ll do it.”
“It doesn’t take long to set up. Fortunately, he doesn’t judge me by my table setting skills!” Megan continued.
“I’ll sit with him at his little table and we’ll eat together, wearing hats and masks.
“Jamie thought I was crazy about keeping all of the party items – but they’re useful.”
Megan’s unconventional approach to breakfast time not only helped overcome little Rudi’s excitement, it was also a lovely experience that brought back precious memories during the pandemic.
On Instagram, she shared a few snaps with her 35,000 followers who were excited about the idea. Some even planned to try them on their own picky little eaters.
She laughed, “Everyone thought it was really funny and a lot of mothers wanted to know how I came up with it in the first place. I can’t get any recognition because technically it was Rudi’s idea.”
She concluded, “If I had the energy I’d love to have the parties for him every day – but that way they don’t lose their novelty. It’s a nice reward for us to enjoy together.”
Commenting on Megan’s story, Jenny Logan, nutritionist at Natures Aid, said, “Many parents, like Megan, will have had their share of teatime battles with young children making selective choices about what to eat.
“It could be due to all sorts of reasons including the color, texture, and even the brand of food. Unfortunately, the measures to lock down Covid-19, which has resulted in a routine loss for many families, have only exacerbated the situation. Even simple changes such as eating at different times or snacking randomly throughout the day can affect eating habits.
“My advice to these troubled parents is to stay positive and come up with an arsenal of tricks to get them to eat and help them thrive. The important thing is not to force them but to find ways to make them feel comfortable trying out new tastes, like Megan did. She managed to find a unique and playful way to get her son excited about breakfast by pretending to be throwing parties. “
Jenny added, “However, if you can’t find an approach that works, rest assured that there are many avenues of advice – family, friends, child nutritionists, or bloggers for parents. It’s important to remember that there is no single mealtime method What works for some doesn’t work for others, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
“I often recommend bridging the gap between what your little ones want to eat and what ends up on the floor (or walls) by adding vitamin and mineral drops like Natures Aid Mini Drops to their food or drink . ”
Find Megan on Instagram @mamameganstevens