The Toddler Café

By Jennifer Carden (Chronicle Books, 2008)

The Toddler Cafe

Toddlers can be formidable foes at mealtime, with preferences as passionate and fickle as little opera divas. So, efforts to feed your child well can be a bit of a production, but not an insurmountable one — especially if you’re willing to work with the child mind instead of against it.

Jennifer Carden is a San Francisco food stylist and mom who has discovered a few tricks for feeding picky kids well: Be silly, be creative, and don’t be afraid to start over. She provides healthy recipes that appeal to a toddler’s tactile interest in food; the broad variety of tastes, shapes and colors help kids develop an adventurous palate at an early age, thus saving them from becoming adults interested only in chicken fingers.

Her list of tips includes ways to get kids involved with meal prep and cleanup, suggestions for dealing with messes (e.g., get a dog), and ideas for how to get kids psyched about mealtime — from serving unconventional dishes to deploying fantasy stories about the food. The unfussy recipes are clever in their subterfuge of various vegetables, like masking spinach with apples and calling avocado “swamp goo.”

A great tool for parents who struggle with a food-fussy toddler, or for any parent seeking creative ways to nurture a healthy palate.

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