I finally found a way for our family to take advantage of the quality time you usually get at meal times without your toddler wandering around the table and house at the same time. My daughter (finally) sits for our meals and actually enjoys this time with us. And man, did this take me a minute to figure out.
To those of you who are like me in that this is your first kiddo, there’s no shame in taking your time in learning HOW to make things work for your child and you (of course)! We went from the classic high chair, to a Montessori-style meal/work table (which we still use for snack times), to our current solution that I’ll talk more about below.
Here are the three investments that made a difference in creating a successful family table setting for our 15 month old:
1- A Montessori-Style High Chair
We recently purchased this Keekaroo Kids Chair second-hand after researching the benefit of having a chair like this for your child; they eventually learn how to safely climb up into their chair on their own – of course she’s still too young for this, but I like the thought of saying, “It’s dinner time, Mariam, so let’s go ahead and sit at the table.” and watching her seat herself properly.
I HIGHLY recommend you get this second-hand. Chairs like this can get pricy, so purchasing this used can save you $$$$. There are also other brands that work well, like the Stokke Tripp Trapp, although I found Keekaroo to be less expensive.
Interestingly enough, this chair wasn’t a win when we first got it, and let me tell you why-
When we first brought this chair out, I made the mistake of seating Mariam on it for meal times at the dining table, expecting her to adapt too quickly while she was used to either eating both breakfast and lunch at her work/snack table or being strapped in a high chair in the past (and she wouldn’t sit for long enough at her meal table at that time). I also had her sit and eat alone at the family table for breakfast and lunch on this chair. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t take to the chair. She wanted to sit in my lap or skip out on her meals instead.
After some trial and error, I figured out why she wasn’t fond of the chair (common sense spoke to me). A child at her age doesn’t want to sit alone high up without some company and time to adjust, so I began sitting with her at the table for every single meal, giving her a chance to get used to the chair as I ate and talked to her during meal times. We would also use our Google Mini to listen to fun songs and make funny faces at each other.
I also discovered that she does best when she’s sitting between my husband and me, and not only on one of our sides (you can see what I mean in the picture below). This way, she is actively involved in our meal time activity instead of on the sidelines. Before, I had her at the head of one side, so she was isolated to the other side of the table.
2- Color-Coordinated Dishes
We decided on having a color-coordinated dish and utensil set for Mariam. Instead of just whipping out any random dish or cup, I provide all of her snacks and meals on her special dishes. A huge plus is that she now has access to her dishes and is reaching for them herself.
We bought these child-size dishes (including the utensils) from Target for a total of less than $15. They have a variety of colors, are BPA free, dishwasher and microwave safe (I don’t put them in the microwave though AND I place them on the top rack of the dishwasher).
3- Toddler Dinner Setting Placemat
We use a silicone placemat with the dishes and utensils mapped out on it. I think etiquette is something our entire family could benefit from, so we bought her a place setting mat to teach her (and remind us) of how to properly set the table and where to put her cup when she’s done taking a sip.
This is the silicone placemat by Kiddison (see picture below) that we purchased from Amazon. Unfortunately, this item is currently unavailable, so I recommend this placemat
This placemat is nonslip and easy to clean.
For all parents, establishing a rhythm and routine to each meal time is essential. The beauty of parenting a curious toddler is that you can use trial and error to find a way to make meal time (or any activity) a success.
Let me know if you’ve made certain investments that helped your family find a rhythm for meal times! I’d love to hear from you!