Getting my kids to eat isn't always easy. One loves cheese, one hates cheese (except on pizza, naturally). The toddler eats broccoli like it's going out of style and the other ones push it off the plate. Half of them will eat guacamole, and the other half will like it one day until I buy more because I'm so excited they're all eating guacamole and then will suddenly decide it's gross and will leave me with a surplus of guac (not really a problem with me around though). But one thing that seems to work is cute food. What is cute food, you ask? I'm not talking about making elaborate bento boxes with rice shaped into Peppa Pig or anything, I'm talking about a few accessories and tricks to get kids to at least try something. Just a bite. Come on.
First up, these Dylbug plates are THE CUTEST. You personalize the plate with your child's name, hair color, eye color, etc. and leave it up to the kids to dress up with their favorite food. There are also little clothing cutters that you can use to cut out dress or pants + shirt shaped toast, sandwiches, the possibilities are endless. Just the simple act of making food more appealing to look at can encourage them to try a bite. With Talley I like to put some cut up fruit on her plate along with a toast dress and she just loves it, making a berry hat and cheese bows for the hair, I swear it's as much fun for me as it is for her. (ps, Dylbug is a mom-run business, even better).
Next up, SHAPES. I know I have talked about this super easy "trick" before, but seriously, it works. Make that square of disgusting, inedible cheese all of a sudden totally delicious by making it a star. Or a heart. Or spell out their name in melon. Guaranteed if you have a child that knows how to spell their own name they will love eating it. I bought a set of alphabet cookie cutters at AC Moore and they have gone a LONG way already. Now that Jack is in preschool they do a new letter every week, and I'll try to cut that letter into whatever I can (or pair it with a food that starts with that letter, worked great for A and apple and B for banana, we'll see what happens with Z...)
Thirdly, I like to do what I call the "Toddler Graze". This works well when they are sort of in between growth spurts and the eating has slowed down a bit. I'll make a bunch of things to try, cut up fruit and cheese, snacks that I can refrigerate again, and serve them for breakfast. If she eats it, great. If not, it gets popped back into the fridge to rearrange and try again for lunch. It cuts WAY down on wasting food, and eventually she does seem to eat most of it. Sometimes having the pressure off of meal times makes it more likely that she will find her way back to the plate and eat it all up before I even realize.
For the big kids, we do an after school snack graze. I put a bunch of different options on a big plate and they can do whatever they want. Having them be in control of what they put on their plates makes it easier when the options are all healthy ones. It's different from dinner time because there's no set meal, it's whatever they feel like having. Do they want a bowl of just fruit? Fine. A little of everything? Fine. Do they want to get creative and make something they haven't tried before? Definitely fine.
Mostly though, I want them to serve themselves, use utensils, and clean up after themselves. I don't serve anything that will get out of control messy, and try to pick stuff that is manageable for little hands. Lately we've gotten more into the color coordinating with our cups and bowls and I found this great IKEA set on Amazon that works like a charm. It comes with actual knives that the kids can handle too, and everyone has a color (pair them up with these to make it even more toddler proof).