The 9 Stages of Dinner with a Toddler


Remember back pre-kids when a nice dinner meant sitting around the table, talking about your day with a glass of wine in hand? It was calm, it was quiet and it was relaxing.

Throw a toddler in the mix and dinner is a whole new ball game.

Dinner is no longer a time to relax and catch up on our days. Instead, there’s yelling, there’s complaining, there’s food flying everywhere - it’s rushed, it’s stressful and it sure is messy.


Dinner with a Toddler

Safe to say, dinner time with a toddler is quite the process. Here are the nine stages of dinner time at our house.

Stage 1 starts even before we walk through the front door. It starts as soon as I pick Morley up at daycare and we’re walking home. I hear a little voice coming from the stroller in front of me saying, “Morley want a snack mama”. I know full well 4:30pm is snack time at school, meaning she just ate not long ago, but it’s hard to give in to her cute little face. I pull a snack from the emergency stash in my purse.

When she is done her snack and asks for more, we are about half way home. Distraction is key in this case, keep her occupied until we can get home. Most of the time we talk about the airplanes and buses.


Dinner with a Toddler

We walk through the door. Boots off. Jacket off. Stroller away. Enter stage 2, the mad dash to the fridge. She grabs at the handle and says “Oh heavy! Mama help Morley”, as in, I want in the fridge. Stat. We won’t be eating dinner for at least another hour, so I often give in to a small snack. Usually a yogurt cup, string cheese or handful of goldfish. 

I ask her what she wants for dinner, most of the time just to humour myself with what she says. If it were up to her we would be having pasta and pizza with a side of corn and peas every night.


Dinner with a Toddler

With snack in hand, off to watch Paw ‘Troll she goes. This is my time to start dinner. When the episode of Paw Patrol is nearing an end, she realizes I am not in the living room with her. This is a BIG problem. 

Stage 3 is what I like to refer to as “the cling”. “Mammmmaaaaa, where are yoooouuuu?? What chu doin'?” I hear from the living room. She knows full well where I am. Toddlers can be so passive aggressive sometimes. By this time, I’m in full cook mode, usually standing over the stove. She runs and grabs my legs, not letting go. I tell her over and over again that the stove is hot, she needs to go sit down, but all she sees is me doing something without her.


Dinner with a Toddler

Stage 4 is the job. Give her a job to do so she gets away from the hot stove. Depending on what we are making, it may range from mixing a salad to sprinkling cheese to making dumplings for our soup. She stays focused for all of five point six seconds. 

Stage 5 is impatience. She disappears again, leaving a mess from her job spilled out on the kitchen floor. I get nervous when she gets quiet. I poke my head around the corner into the living room to see what she’s up to. Sitting in her high chair. 

“Morley, dinner isn’t ready yet”, I say. Not a good enough answer. 

Luckily, with our HelloFresh meal subscription, making dinner is quick (and near painless). Most of the meals take 30 minutes or less. Less time in the kitchen, means a happy toddler.

Stage 6, after what feels like a lifetime to a toddler, dinner is finally served. Without even giving it a chance, the words “Morley no want” come out of her mouth. She’s not a picky eater, but sometimes she pretends she is. We call her bluff.

After physically giving her the first scoop ourselves, stage 7 makes an appearance. The realization that what mama’s made is not going to kill her and is actually delicious. “Yummmm”, she says, followed by another heaping spoonful into her mouth. This time on her own doing. Success.


Dinner with a Toddler

Stage 8, the “all done”, marked by a quick swipe of the arm across the tray. Everything, and I mean everything, is now on the floor. Even that half glass of milk. The swipe is followed by the hulk, where she uses all of the strength she has in her little body to try and bust out of the highchair, with no luck. Mid-bite, we must stop to let her out.

Dinner is all done. Everything is cleaned up and put away. Toddler is bathed and now it’s time to relax. Oh wait, not before one last request for a peanut butter taco (i.e. rolled tortilla with peanut butter). Stage 9, the snacker. We compromise on something a bit healthier, peanut butter and apple, and settle on the couch with a book, or ten.

Finally, there is peace in the house.


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What does dinner time look like in your house? I'd love to hear!





Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. To & Fro received product and/or compensation in exchange for this post, however, all opinions are 100% my own.