I sometimes joke that the easiest way to get your toddler to eat something you want them to is to put it on your plate, not theirs—because they always seem to want what’s not theirs! And while letting them eat full meals off of your plate is not the best daily strategy, simply because of the logistics, there are some ways that you can use this to your advantage. Here are 3 ways to handle it when your toddler only wants the food on your plate.
1. Try a Family Snack Plate
We tend to do this when we want to have picnics on the porch in the warmer months but it can work at a table too. Put an assortment of food—try a cheese plate with fresh veggies and fruit, sliced cheese, thin salami, crackers, and the like—onto a cutting board or large serving platter and let everyone, even the little eaters, take what they want as they want it. (The adults do the same!) This lets the little ones pick and choose what they want from what’s on offer, but there’s no temptation to eat off your plate since you don’t have one!
2. Serve Food Family-Style
The next time you serve dinner, instead of dishing up plates by the counter, bring all of the components of the meal to the table and let everyone serve themselves. Ask your toddler what they want—even if they aren’t too verbal, they can point! With all of the meal right there, the little one can let you know when they want more without needing to take it from your plate…since whatever is on your plate should also be on the table.
3. Cook One Meal
Skipping short-order cooking in favor of just one family meal can go a long way towards eliminating plate grabbing. I know that there are times that you might want something different than your little one, but if you serve just one meal most of the time, everyone will adjust to eating the same food and any potential drama will be lessened. We sometimes have optional sides—most commonly, this is salad, which L doesn’t always want—so that can be a way to add in variety if you need something else for yourself.