By Aubrey Everett
A traditional Thanksgiving meal can vary depending on location, traditions and culinary preferences. And this year's Thanksgiving celebration will without a doubt be different from year's past. For kids, Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy time with family, and also an opportunity to try new foods. Thanksgiving classics such as roast turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce are not year-round dishes for many families, and your toddler may not have experienced these foods yet, or at least not since last November.
For kids, Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy time with family, and also an opportunity to try new foods.
At 18 months old this is technically our son’s second Thanksgiving. But this year, instead of solid foods being a brand new concept, he is an active eater and understands the routine and ritual of sitting down to a meal. This holiday gives us a chance to introduce new flavors and textures to an eager and inquisitive toddler.
When it comes to feeding our son, we approach each meal by offering him a variety of foods, without forcing him to eat each item or a certain amount. We trust that his body knows how much to consume and when he is full. At each meal we provide something that we know he likes, in addition to trying something new or an item he may have rejected in the past. Even if he doesn’t like something the first, second or even third time, we continue to expose him to that item repeatedly. We will take the same approach with Thanksgiving dinner.
At each meal we provide something that we know he likes, in addition to trying something new or an item he may have rejected in the past ... We will take the same approach with Thanksgiving dinner.
We are spending the holiday with my mother, who will be preparing the meal, so I know what to expect. If you are not sure what will be served at your meal, it may be a good idea to ask, so you can be prepared. While we may think of Thanksgiving as having a traditional menu, the components can vary widely from family to family.
Our toddler is not a terribly picky eater, but he definitely has his preferences. Knowing what will be on the table for our Thanksgiving meal, there are a few items I already know will be an easy yes: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots all come to mind. These are items our son has been eating for months. Turkey, gravy and creamed onions with peas -- a Thanksgiving tradition in our family -- will be new textures and flavors for him.
I plan to bring our son’s plate and utensils to our Thanksgiving meal as a sign of familiarity. I will start with small portions of each item and casually observe where he goes first and what items make a repeat appearance on his fork. If he doesn’t eat something, that is OK. We chalk it up to exposure. If he shows interest in something new, great! I can work it into our mealtime rotation at home.
If he doesn’t eat something, that is OK. We chalk it up to exposure. If he shows interest in something new, great! I can work it into our mealtime rotation at home.
Our family is small and I cook most of our son’s meals, but I want him to be comfortable in all different situations surrounding food. Eating a meal cooked by someone else will help open his mind to new flavors and cooking techniques.
The great thing about Thanksgiving is that the meal is treated as a celebration. The focus is on the food, without the distraction of a long day at daycare, chores that need to get done, or work tasks on hold. There will be discussion and laughter and lots of things to keep our son occupied in this new eating environment.