So you're the mom of a toddler and you have to go to the bank, pick up something at the grocery store, and drop off the dry cleaning...with your 13 month old..."yeah, right," you say. "Can't be done."
Wrong. It is possible to go out and about with a toddler.
What is the key to keeping your little one happy and content? How can you stop a toddler from screaming while you're waiting in an endless line at the post office?
Speaking from experience, I believe the secret to a happy toddler who is out and about with mom is simple. The answer is food, easy to nibble on, and plenty of it. Young children need to eat more frequently than adults. They need the energy and nutrition to stay healthy and happy and to grow.
Here are a few suggestions for quick and easy toddler finger food when you're on the go:
1. Always prepare food to take with you when you're going out with your toddler for more than 15 minutes. It might sound like a lot of work, but you won't regret thinking ahead.
2. Pack everything in easy-to-get-to baggies and containers. This makes it so much easier to feed a toddler when you're out.
3. Take a cooler in your car during the hotter months. Your toddler food won't last long in the heat so make sure you freeze your ice blocks every night for use the next day.
4. Finger food is the rule for a toddler. Make lots of finger food that is easy for your toddler to hold without your help. Instead of a sandwich sliced in half, simply cut off the crust and make smaller finger sandwiches. You can ration out the food easily when everything is in bite size chunks.
5. Try to keep it healthy. Stick to healthy foods as much as possible. Avoid the tendency to buy lots of prepared and processed foods. Stay away from foods high in sugar and corn syrup. Not only does sugar give a quick burst of energy that soon fades, but it also starts bad eating habits that can promote tooth decay.
6. Make your own snacks to take with you. You'll save money and your child will be healthier and happier. As your child gets older, let him help you prepare the snacks.
7. Watch out for choking hazards. Make sure you don't give a toddler any food he is not ready to chew comfortably. Cut up pieces of fruit and vegetables make great snacks. Just be careful not to give a toddler carrots, nuts, popcorn, or anything that he isn't ready to chew. Make sure you're supervising your toddler while he is eating.
Toddler Finger Food Suggestions
Finger sandwiches - peanut butter, almond spread, cream cheese, cheese spread; all these sandwiches are quick and easy to make and a good source of protein. Try to buy the natural peanut butter without sugar or hydrogenated oils. Try almond spread for kids with peanut allergies. Cheese sandwiches provide the calcium that a lot of toddlers are missing out on. Or do like the Aussies do and try a vegemite sandwich. It takes getting used to, but it's high in vitamin B.
Cut up pieces of fruit - pears, apples, pineapple, peaches. Don't worry if your toddler hates the skin, peel away. And you can always bring a simple banana.
Dried fruit - raisins, prunes, apricots are all great, but be careful since dried fruits are high in sugar. My mom always called dried fruit "nature's candy."
Dried cereal - the healthier the better. Toasted O's such as Cheerios are a real life saver when you're on the go. Remember to avoid the sugar coated cereals.
Chunks of cheese - easy to eat.
Mini bagels - complex carbohydrate, soft and yummy.
Well cooked pasta - shells, macaroni, etc. Add a little salt and some olive oil to keep it from sticking. Store them in ziplock bags and grab them when you're on the go.
Yogurt and fruit
Cottage cheese and applesauce
Fruit breads, corn bread
Sunflower seeds (for older toddlers) and dried fruit
Just remember, be prepared when you go out and keep it simple and nutritious. You and your toddler will both be happier.
Clarissa Camus is a mother and founder of Easy Kids Recipes (www.easy-kids-recipes.com). Her webiste includes food articles, a free newsletter, and lots of kid-friendly recipes.