Hannah doesn’t eat a lot of sugar.
One thing Emma and I have consciously tried to do for Hannah is give her a healthy diet. Our philosophy around junk food is that Hannah doesn’t know what she is missing. On top of that, we believe that if she develops healthy eating habits early on then it will have lasting benefits as she gets older.
That is all well and good in our day-to-day lives. We have complete control over everything that goes into Hannah’s mouth (except at day care, although they also have a healthy menu). We provide Hannah with access to plenty of tasty foods, but we are fully aware of what is in them and we work hard to keep her meals balanced.
All of that goes out the window when it comes to parties.
The Toddler Birthday Party
I have always loved a good party. Not because of the social interaction or the fun games… it’s the food. Despite the healthy-eating philosophy that I try to instil in Hannah, I’m partial to junk food in my own diet.
Yes, I know that makes me a great big hypocrite. It is something I’m acutely aware of and it’s a battle that I fight each day. I am trying to cut the junk out of my diet, I really am.
I also think that if there is any place for a bit of sugar and highly-processed, artificially flavoured food in a toddler’s life, then the birthday party is it! It’s not fair to impose strict rules about what Hannah can and cannot eat when every other toddler is stuffing their face with sugary delights.
Recently we were at a toddler birthday party. As we entered the “party zone” in the backyard, we came face-to-face with tables upon tables of classic party food.
It was all there – fairy bread, chocolate-coated biscuits, chips, dips, lollies, party pies and sausage rolls, soft drink, that weird coloured popcorn stuff…
I looked at Emma and she looked at me. Hannah didn’t look at either of us. She looked at the table. The kid loves food, and here was a whole new world of colour and flavour, all within easy reach of her tiny hands.
Knowing that Hannah would be into the food within a matter of seconds, I took the lead. I figured that if she was going to stuff her face, I could at least direct her to the healthier foods first. I found some breadsticks and Hannah happily put away half-a-dozen of them before scanning the table to see what other tasty treats she could find.
Thankfully her eyes fixed upon a bowl of fruit. Inside it was a selection of berries, orange, mandarin, apple and watermelon. Hannah positioned herself directly in front of that bowl (like father, like daughter) and picked out every single berry that she could find. Berries ain’t cheap – she must have polished off about $20 worth!
Out of the Woods…
Hannah had partied in the best way possible (by largely ignoring everyone and stuffing her face), and I figured that she must be approaching full. Thankfully she had not found the most processed of the party food (I had found it, positioned myself in front of it, and had eaten most of it myself).
I was wrong. Hannah was just warming up. Now that she had eaten some of her favourite foods, she was emboldened to try new things. First up was a slice of fairy bread. Her eyes lit up the moment the sweet white bread touched her lips. Thankfully, Emma had had the forethought to tell Hannah that it was her “last bit”. Hannah must be the most obedient two year old on the planet, because she takes the words “last bit” as gospel. If she is told that something is the “last bit” before it is given to her, she happily moves on (if she is not told this before she is given it, then all hell can break loose).
As Hannah was in sugar-bread heaven, Emma also surreptitiously moved the rest of the fairy bread to a spot out of toddler reach.
Hannah was now sugared up in a way she had never before experienced. Her world had opened up and she was ready to explore it further. She wandered over to the “popcorn” bowl.
I put “popcorn” in inverted commas because this stuff isn’t really popcorn. It looks like popcorn, but it is coloured and sickly sweet. I have never seen the point of it, but someone must like it because it’s still a thing.
Turns out Hannah likes it. She delicately picked a piece of the bowl and placed it in her mouth. Again her little eyes widened as she realised that she had discovered another source of sugary goodness. Again she positioned herself perfectly to demolish the entire bowl.
I watched as she ate a few pieces, partly in wonderment of her ability to find the disgusting little kernels palatable. A quick glance at Emma’s horrified face told me that I needed to put an end to it before the entire bowl was gone. It was a good point, too much of that stuff would surely guarantee an explosive, multi-coloured vomit during the car ride home (the kid has form).
I decided to go for the distraction technique and engage Hannah with a toy. It worked (she must have finally been feeling full) and we were safely away from the food.
A good birthday party has to have cake.
Cake is something Hannah knows about. She loves it. This particular birthday cake was amazing! It was homemade, delicious and covered in icing and other tasty treats. There was no way Hannah was going to attend a party without eating cake, so in her gob it went.
The effect was mesmerising. As all of the toddlers finished their bowls, their eyes began to bulge and spin. One-by-one they stood up and, no longer capable of walking, they took off at full speed through the house.
Pandemonium ensued for about the next twenty minutes then, as the sugar rush wore off, it was time to go home.
There were some tears, and protests of “party” as we left, but Hannah’s tiredness was written all over her face. It was definitely time to go.
After a quick lunch (I still can’t believe Hannah had any room left for lunch), it was nap time.
Despite her extreme tiredness, Hannah just wouldn’t fall asleep.
I’m not saying the sugar was entirely to blame here, the whole day was incredibly stimulating. I think she would have had a hard time falling asleep even without the toddler-crack surging through her veins.
Eventually Hannah fell asleep. I can only assume she had Trainspotting-style withdrawal dreams (hopefully without all the swearing).
How do you deal with toddlers and party food? Is it free-for-all, or do you do into damage mitigation mode?