If there’s one thing I’d forgotten in the three years between my two boys, it’s how messy toddlers are.
Especially when eating.
Our 21-month-old, Lachie throws food from his high chair, and requires an outfit change after at least one of his three daily meals.
To make matters worse, he’s recently grown too tall and restless in his high chair – so restless, he’s taken to doing this with completely no assistance whatsoever:
Eating outside seemed an obvious solution
Here’s how I imagined the scene:
Me sitting on a blanket in the backyard, tea in hand while Lachie sits beside me eating all the vegetables and lean protein I have lovingly cut up on a matching bamboo picnic set.
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Unfortunately, reality bites.
A real-life toddler doesn’t let you sit down much. Because even if you think you’ve arranged a next-level picnic, they’ll inevitably want to spend the time walking you around the garden, lifting them on the swing or sticking their hands in your neighbour’s fence.
Basically anything other than sit down and eat their lunch.
In the interests of tired parents everywhere, here’s my definitive list of rules for having a picnic with your toddler and not losing your mind – or cup of tea.
Rules for eating outside with your toddler
- Don’t spend too much time preparing the food: it will be sat on or stepped on. Probably both. Sandwiches, fruit and some cheese are great choices and take less than no time to be squashed to smithereens. Blueberries are a massive hit.
- The less clothes the better: I’m referring here to your toddler but, of course, if you’re feeling it too, why not take your own clothes off? It’s your backyard, right? Less clothes equal less mess to tidy away, and also helps you to get on with your next activity quick smart.
- No toys: Particularly no small toys. Your toddler will either consider them part of the meal, an activity to press into their meal OR you’ll end up stepping on them in your haste to pack everything away.
- Make sure the blanket is washable: I use this terrific Turkish towel I was given to take to the beach many moons ago, when I could read a book on the sand. Sigh. Now it’s big enough for two and washes and dries super-fast. Sans blueberry stains!
- Don’t lay out all the food at once: If your end game is to enjoy the sunshine, slowly drip-feed the snacks and hold out on handing over the best one till you’ve at least had your cup of tea!
- Look up: My favourite thing to do is lie back and lift Lachie over my head like an aeroplane. He giggles and sometimes, if I’m lucky, blueberry juice dribbles from his mouth onto my face … But we both look up at the big blue sky and everything is right with the world. For a second!
What’s your toddler-proof tip when it comes to sharing meals?