During my father-in-law’s recent hospitalization, I took a break from the hospital food and had the unusual (for me) opportunity to dine alone in a restaurant in a distant town. If you’re like me, during moments like this, I do a lot of people watching and listening. (My husband calls this eavesdropping. I call it “learning”!)
During this time, I observed a mom trying to get her small son to try salad. She assured him that anything covered in ranch dressing was something he would like. Of course, I mentally agreed with her. During that moment, a memory came rushing back.
One of the most successful parenting moments I ever had.
Just like this young mother, we also struggled with getting toddlers to try new foods, but somewhere along the way, I read about an idea some parents found successful. I think the idea must have come from reading the Eric Carle book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
The idea (simple, yet profound) was this—help your child cut out a whole bunch of circles from construction paper. On the first one, draw a caterpillar face. Then, every time your child tries a new food, you write the name of the food on a circle and add it to his caterpillar. The idea is to see how long his or her caterpillar can become by trying new foods. In our house, the idea was an immediate hit, because my kids loved to compete with each other.
Every time they turned their nose up at something on their plate, all I had to do was say, “Try it, and you’ll get a circle!” Brilliant, right?
So now…to tell the truth…
This was also one of my biggest parenting fails.
Or was it?
I’d like to tell you that we had caterpillars on the walls that circled the room…but we didn’t. The reason was simple. We never got around to making the circles! But the idea was splendid, and the idea of making the circles stuck. So, in my effort to keep a good thing going, I made a list so we could eventually make those circles with all the things they tried—and they did try things! As a result, they both became really good eaters, but especially our youngest, Marshall. To this day, he’ll try things I won’t—and all the credit goes to the best/worst parenting job I ever did.
So, young parents (and grandparents) take heart. It just goes to prove a good idea can go a really long way, even when it doesn’t get done exactly “right”! And, for the record…I still have the construction paper, and my someday grandkids are getting caterpillars!
Until next time ~ Karen