Many parents will tell you their most trying part of the day is meal time. Food is thrown, milk is split and noses are turned up. However, there are ways to improve — and actually enjoy! — family meals. It all starts with respect; respect the process, respect the food and respect the company. Here are some tips:
Sit down together
A meal should be shared by everyone in your family. Resist the urge to toss some chicken nuggets on a plate and hand them to your toddler while you down some coffee. That’s not dinner! Instead, be a role model and sit down together with your child at the table. Eat the same meal and talk about your food as well as your thoughts on the day.
Try to make the meal last at least 20-30 minutes. This is a lot for a toddler to sit through but high chairs and booster seats are your best friends in this regard. Strap ‘em in and get chatting. The patience it takes to sit through a meal is a good life lesson for your kid.
Get your kids to help
Teaching your children about food from a young age will make them aware of all the different food groups and help avoid that scrunched-up nose and squeal “Ew! I’m not eating that!”
If you’d call your son or daughter a picky eater, you’re certainly not alone. Let them help you unpack the groceries (minus the eggs!) to show them firsthand the variety of fruits, veggies and proteins you can eat. You should cook together with them so that they can see how healthy foods are prepared. Who knows, you might even have the next Tom Colicchio on your hands!
Sound familiar? Patience is a state you’re called to numerous times a day, right? Mealtime is no different. Put everything — the protein, the starch, the veggies — on your child’s plate and encourage him or her to try what they want, without pushing them. Be patient with them if they make a mess and, if they won’t eat something, simply try it again another day.
Finally, kids love a routine. Stick to a meal routine just like you do a bedtime routine. They’ll settle into the program and you’ll enjoy the structure, too. Now let dinner be served!