Mum's the word | Snails from the garden should not be on the menu, nor should cat food and soap

My father always said that I was a frustrating toddler to feed. Apparently all I wanted to eat was a Vegemite sandwich. My parents, however, were focused on ensuring I received the balanced nutrition necessary for a growing child. So meal time, as I understand, was never enjoyable.

Children may buck the system when it comes to eating a healthy meal like vegetables, but for some reason they will happily eat sand...or cat food...or snails. Go figure.

Children may buck the system when it comes to eating a healthy meal like vegetables, but for some reason they will happily eat sand...or cat food...or snails. Go figure.

Fortunately, my children were far less of a challenge when it came to eating. Best of all my children loved mashed vegetables - the more vegetable varieties in the mix, the better.

My son will still eat just about anything - my daughters are slightly more selective in their adulthood. However, veggies have continued to be a hit with all. In fact during the teen years my daughters would actually request mashed veggies for lunch at school. Suffice to say none of their friends asked them to swap snacks.

I have no idea why vegetables became such a hit with my children. I have many friends and family members who have always struggled with their children to eat such a meal, my parents included.

Maybe it was the fact that this was the main meal served to my children from the moment they began eating solid food, along with mashed banana and stewed apples. Or maybe it was just good luck. We couldn't really afford to stock up on packaged baby food - homemade was always on the menu. I would even freeze the mash mix in ice cubes for use when we were away from home.

However, this is not to say there were no dining challenges. In fact, each child has confused me with an eating habit that simply goes down in the records under the label "what were they thinking?"

Of course they weren't thinking, they were toddlers at the time their respective strange eating habits surfaced.

The common old-fashioned punishment for a child who swore was never going to work for me - my son would eat soap. Not a lot, but if he was in the bath tub and there was a bar of soap within reach he would inevitably put it in his mouth.

At least his preferred strange dining option was clean. The same can't be said for my daughters. We still joke today about the oldest daughter's exotic tastes.

These were revealed the day I found her sitting on the balcony with empty snail shell in front of her and slime on her face. We don't want to think about what happened to the snail. I like to believe it escaped ... but we all know better.

The youngest had equally strange snacking preferences - the dried cat food biscuits. The good news is that she never started purring.

In all fairness a reflection on all three children in the early years has identified that youngsters will put everything in their mouth. Best option is to keep dangerous items out of reach.

However, just as you think you have eliminated all the possibilities, they will eat a snail or dig in to the cat bowl.

I was a fanatic about sterilising everything with my first child but eventually I realised that no matter how much I sterilised sipper cups and teething rings they were still likely to chew on everything else they could find including sand at the beach.

As they grew older my husband and I loved to take our children to a nice restaurant from time-to-time so they could experience something a little more gourmet than mashed veg ... or snails.

At one particular restaurant we visited on special occasions our son would always ask for "fishy with the eyes looking at him". The name on the menu was whole snapper, but we like his description better. He loved it and surprisingly he left little on his plate. Our daughters would usually ask for spaghetti bolognese, regardless of where we dined. The oldest daughter has been vegetarian now for 10 years.

Without a doubt, expanding the dining experiences of our children has been enjoyable. Unlike my parents, I can honestly say that meal time hasn't been a challenge. Clearly they didn't get their broadminded food expectations from their mother. Perhaps it came from their father as he has always been good on the fang. Offering a variety of healthy choices may also have helped.

And for the record I still love a Vegemite sandwich.

  • A mother-of-three grown kids, ACM editor Mumma Jak is familiar with the challenges of parenthood and the various approaches needed to help raise well-rounded humans.