Eating with a Toddler

Updated on January 17, 2012
K.H. asks from Tempe, AZ
12 answers

Hi Moms.... my daughter is 21 months old. I pick her up from daycare between 4 and 4:30 most days. My husband gets home from his job around 5-5:30 pm. He then changes and goes to his other job. It only takes about a hour so he's home usually around 6:30. Typically I give my daughter dinner and then bathe her. Just as she's finishing her bath, Daddy comes home and then we all play until about 7:30 when we put her down for bed. At that point, my husband and I have our dinner.

This schedule was heaven when she was younger because it allowed for a nice relaxing dinner with my husband but now that she's older I'm thinking that we need to start eating dinner as a family so that a) we can begin this very important habit, and b) so she can see good table manners modeled. However, given our schedule the way it is, I don't see how we would be able to eat dinner together until 6:30-6:45 and I know that this is too late for her. Lately she's been starving at around 5:30 so I give her dinner then. Can anyone give me solutions to this?

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answers from Phoenix on

I would give her a healthy snack- some sort of carb (fruit) and a protein (meat or cheese). Then eat together as a family. It's important for her to see you eating and having conversation together as a family. And eventually, you won't want to cook dinner twice as she gets a little older!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I would keep this schedule until she's old enough to wait for dinner. Another year or so for sure. Why mess with what works? At 21 months old, and hungry, none of you will enjoy dinner at 6:45. There's plenty of time to have family dinners and learn table manners.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

give her a snack later to tide her over until dinner. or, just wait until she is older to sit down for dinner. at this age she wont pick up much. once she is a few months older she will really want to do what mommy and daddy are doing and at that point it will be easier.

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answers from Seattle on

Honestly... wait.

You have years and years and years ahead of you.

Enjoy this time with your husband, and know that in 1-2 years, for the next 15 years, you'll be eating together.

ALSO... my son eats every 3 hours. Breakfast, brunch (we homeschool), lunch, tea, dinner. He's ALWAYS hungry at 430-530, so that's when we have tea. Tea, of course, being light sandwiches/ chicken nuggets/ whatever. It's a light meal, not a complete meal. With a cuppa. (his being mostly milk, or hot chocolate). And then we have dinner around 730-830.

When you DO start eating together as a family when bedtime is later... I strongly advise not 'starving' the kids till dinner. Have a tea time in the late afternoon. Make dinner manners about 1000x easier because they're not 'starvin o the hunger' and on edge.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

simple: give her a nutritious snack when you get home. Let her help prep dinner for the "family". By allowing her to help, she will be interested in mealtime with you.

Oh, & still do the bath early....don't wait until after dinner. She can eat in her jammies....allowing more playtime with Daddy! OR Daddy can do the bath....while dinner is being readied.



answers from Washington DC on

Consider giving her a snack around 4:30 when you get home so she can last til he has dinner. When my work schedule required that I picked up DD at 6 and we had a 30-40 minute ride home, I asked the daycare to give DD a snack or her last bottle around 5 so she could make it home. When she was older and the last snack was offered at 3:30, I had a small snack in the car for her and a sippy cup.

Is there any flexibility with your DH's second job? If you had dinner on the table when he comes home to change, could he eat first?



answers from Chicago on

I think eating together as a family is important (even though half the time, I'm feeding the kids and don't get to finish my dinner until they're done eating). I pick up my daughter from daycare around 5:15pm and we get home right before 6pm...which means, we don't eat dinner until 6:30pm or so. We've been on this schedule since she was 18 months old.

She gets a snack at daycare around 3:30 or 4pm, I think, and she's fine until dinner. Sometimes she will ask for Cheerios to "tide her over" until dinner time. Can you give your daughter a snack as soon as you get home (or before you leave daycare)?

Good luck! Oh, and do expect dinner to be a lot more hectic! But it's also fun!



answers from Columbus on

Like you, my hubby and I had dinner after we put our son to bed but in retrospect, I think this was a mistake for us.

Our situation is slightly different as we have a picky eater/sensory problems, however with the next child I would have dinner as a family or if dad couldn't make it home at a decent time I would eat with the kids.

My son seems to do so much better when I eat with him.

I don't have any tips for you, and as others said it might be better for your situation to wait until they are older. I just thought I would share as I have only recently come to the revelation that this might have helped our picky eater situation!



answers from Albuquerque on

Sit down with her and have a cup of tea or a small snack. OR eat with her and have tea or a dessert with your husband. She can also have tea and dessert. That way you get the meal experience without 2 meals. Or keep doing what you're doing if it's working. Every family has a different routine and yours isn't wrong.



answers from Des Moines on

I do think there is value in eating together to model table manners, spend family time, etc. My son couldn't wait til 6:45 for dinner either (even with a snack) as by then he is pretty tired/cranky and it would probably be a stressful dinner (I can see the food flinging now!) Can you eat a small snack size version of a meal when she does? So that you are both sitting down eating together and she won't notice that your plate is only half full or something. Then you can still enjoy dinner with your hubby later but practice eating with your daughter.

If you insist that eating together should include your husband, then I would try the snack route and have her in jammies and everything by the time you do family dinner so she can still get to bed on time. But I would be a little hesitant to do bed right after dinner, because have heard that kids (and adults!) have better sleep after dinner has had an hour or two to digest.

Good luck!



answers from Oklahoma City on

Don't you give her a snack as soon as you get her home? She needs to have something about every 3-4 hours that is substantial enough to keep her from getting too hungry.

She is also old enough to start going to bed a bit later but if that works for you then so be it.

I would give her a good snack when you get her home then let her eat with hubby and you.

A good snack is not just a nibble, it is something with protein, complex carbohydrates, grains, a bowl of cereal, a half sandwich of meat and cheese, a granola bar with a large glass of milk and perhaps a couple of fruit wedges, a small meal if that sounds better to you.



answers from Des Moines on

You could do it two ways-- give her a snack and then have dinner together or give her her dinner and then have her sit with you and have her bedtime snack whilee you eat you dinner. Basically break her supper up into two mini meals......

OR if your schedule allows, make BREAKFAST your FAMILY meal. It doesn't really matter WHICH meal it is, just that it's a daily family ritual....

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