We’ve all been there. Family meal time battles are REAL.
In the perfect world, the clock strikes 6 (or 5:30 in my house) and everyone calmly hops into their chair, politely asks for some food, talks about their day, and eats without a complaint. “Please” and “thank you” are heard, everyone is complimenting the food, and the whole family is sitting down and enjoying a meal together.
Reality check. If your house is anything like my house, then any given family meal time might look something like this – you have to bribe and cajole your toddlers to sit in their chair. You are up and down at least 20 times to the kitchen and back for more water, ketchup, the right colour fork and more. You’ve been asked a minimum three times for something other than what’s on the table and your floor is covered with peas, carrots, and possibly some leftover breakfast. Ah – what a relaxing and enjoyable dinner that was.
Are you feeling as in need of a glass of wine as I am? Grab a glass and lets chat.
Despite all this, I still firmly believe in the importance of the family meal. Sitting down at the table and eating a meal together is a great way to foster a healthful relationship with food for your kiddos right from the get go. I totally recognize this is impossible to happen every meal. If you can try to enjoy one early bird dinner or one Sunday breakfast every week, I call that a win.
So how do we make this time a little more enjoyable? Here are some of my tips to help take the stress out of the family meal time rush.
Five Tips To Make Family Meal Time More Enjoyable
Establish a set meal time
Let’s use dinner as an example. Maybe you like to eat at 6. Or maybe you are partial to the early bird special at 5. Or if you are like me, your kids NEED to eat at 5:30 every night. Whatever it is, pick a time that works for you and your family and make sure everyone knows that when the clock strikes 5:30, it is time to come sit down at the table. There may be some push back. The toys they never play with are always SO appealing when it’s dinner time. But if you are consistent, and the whole family (or whoever is home at this time) is in it together, I promise it will get better.
Take the focus away from the food
This sounds counter intuitive, I know. But if all you are doing the whole meal is trying to coax and bribe your children into eating one more piece of broccoli, is that really enjoyable for anyone? Make meal time fun! Talk about your day, talk about an upcoming party, talk about anything BUT the food. Your whole family will be engaged with each other and you’ll find you will actually enjoy sitting down and eating together instead of dreading it. And if your child does take that extra bite of broccoli only because of your constant reminders, what have they really learned or gained from it?
No phones, computers, iPads at the table
We are all guilty of this one. Sometimes I feel like my phone is an extra appendage. But as hard as it is to tear yourself away from Instagram, try to set it aside for the duration of meal time. If the phone rings or an e-mail comes in, try to leave it until after everyone is done.
Abandon the “clean your plate” mentality
How many times of you heard or said yourself “finish everything on your plate and then you can have dessert.” Why do we feel the need to say this? Children have this fantastic ability to know when they are full. You provide the food and they decide how much they want to eat. Aren’t there times when you just aren’t feeling hungry? Similarly, there are days when you just can’t eat enough. Well, kids have those same feelings too. Cross my heart, your kids will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Promise!
Serve “family style”
When serving breakfast or dinner, I used to make my kids a plate of whatever it was we were having and bring it to the table. Well, no matter if it was their favourite food, the immediate response was always “I don’t like this.” I think most people, including the kiddos, like to feel a sense of control in life, and this applies to their food too. So now, I put the food out on the table and let my kids choose what they want to have on their plates. There is always one food I know they like. In this way they get to feel like they are the keepers of their food, they see you picking and choosing the same thing, and I will bet they will do just the same.
We want to hear from you! Did you find this helpful? What works in your house? Let us know!