24/7 MOMS

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tips to Make Eating with Our Children More Enjoyable!

By Leslie Pleasants
24/7 Editor

Are you one of those parents that attempt to take your family to a restaurant only to ask yourself half way through your meal "Why do we do this?". Having to move everything to one side of the table so your kids can't reach it. Or how about giving in to whatever they want just so they are quiet. Maybe that is why we don't eat out much. Not worth the hassle. I like take out. :) Even eating at home can be a chore in it self. Threatening if they don't eat their dinner they don't get dessert (even if I wasn't planning on giving them dessert). Sitting there for hours waiting for them to finish their meals. How many of you save your kids meals and put them back in the fridge for later when they say "I'm hungry".
Maybe with these tips we can find more peace at the dinner table... to give us some more ideas to make eating with our children more enjoyable.

1) Have a timer: If you are at home. Every night set a timer for when your kids
start their dinner. Allow them a certain amount of time to eat their dinner. You can even set the timer in front of them or close by in their view. Then let them know when it is getting close... like "you have 10 minutes left". Eventually they will catch on. Once their time is up if they haven't finished their meal you take their plate away and throw away their food. That is it! That is all they get. No dessert either unless they have finished their meal. Setting a timer sets a goal for them. It's kind of like a game for them and you might see some good changes with their eating habits.

2) Restaurant Bin: Take this inside the restaurant. A lot of times the restaurant will provide the kids with a coloring page and crayons but that will only amuse them for so long. Bring this bin filled with fun things to keep them busy during your restaurant experience. You can keep this in your ca
r. Here are some ideas of what to fill your bin with:
- Crayons
- Paper
- Play dough
- Cars
- Stickers
- Glow bracelets
- Fruit snacks
- Flash cards
- Work books
- Pencils

3) Discussion Jar: Keep kids talking at the table but not babbling on about who knows what. :) Create a discussion jar. Take a canning jar or even a empty coffee can. You can decorate them to look a little prettier. Then cut up strips of paper. Write on the strips of paper questions for the whole family. Make them easy for all ages to answers. For example; If you go anywhere right now where would you go? What is your favorite food? Who is your best friend? What is the last thing you prayed about? etc... Then you go around the table while you are eating answering the questions.

4) Change it up: Sometimes the kids are just bored of the everyday dinner table routine. There are several things you can do to change it up to make it more fun for everyone. Here are some ideas:

- Make a picnic: Lay out a blanket on the floor and eat on the blanket like you are having a picnic

- Have a theme night: If you have all girls you could have Princess night or a theme from a movie. You could even just have it as simple as wear all blue, pj's or wear a hat.

- Decorate the table: Make a fun table with lights or candles. You can even use confetti and streamers like its a birthday party. Colored paper plates and plastic silverware. Kids just get a kick over the simplest things.

- Colored Food: Have all your food be the same color. Kids might be weirded out at first but then might think its fun once they realize what it is.

- Finger Food: Make all finger foods. Set all the food in the middle of the table like appetizers with various dips. Lots of veggies. Let the kids decide what they want to eat.

- Play a Game: Play a game while eating dinner. Find a game that will fit in the middle of your table. Let the kids know that this will NOT happen all the time... only on special occasions. Play the game while you eat. Make sure its not a greasy finger food meal.

- Fancy Night: Dress up the table with linens and your fine china. Let the kids help you pick out the meal from a recipe book. Teach them the fine dining manners. Napkin on laps, holding the silverware, "please pass the...", etc.. you might be surprised just by decorating the table all fancy how it can change their mood and make it fun for them to be all serious. Have them even dress up in nice outfits.

- Salad Bar Night: Make a salad bar. Have it low enough so kids can reach it and have everyone go through the line just like a restaurant getting what they want. Help them with the dressing. It's always surprising how many vegetables they end up having on their plates! :)


Talking with other moms is sometimes how you can get the best secrets/tips out there. So please share. What is your best tip to get your kids to sit still at the dinner table and/or restaurants?



Anonymous leather jackets said...

I know how hard it is for kids to eat soemtimes,w hat is put ionfr ont of them, but my 2 boys ages 2 and 9 months are eating whats put in front of them.... the secret was to involve them in the making of the dish and taste bits as we made it.

February 23, 2011 at 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We sometimes eat dinner in front of our favorite movie.

February 23, 2011 at 8:21 PM  
Anonymous rradiomom said...

I hope NO ONE will put number one into practice in their home. If you have a child who is a slow eater, you're teaching him to either scarf down his meal or that he doesn't get to satisfy his appetite if he doesn't "finish his meal".
As a fat person, I speak from experience.
TIMING a child's eating is going to give her food issues. It is much better to teach your child how to recognize the signs of hunger & the signs of fullness rather than saying, "This is a race. If you haven't eaten everything when the timer dings, you lose & you lose your food. AND, extra punishment, no dessert."
Gosh, that sounds awful!

In an effort to not just criticize but also offer up an alternative, I want to suggest something else. If you're trying to develop good habits so you can take your children to a restaurant and remain sane, two really good methods are: 1. Have a few practice runs and 2. Tell your children that they cannot go to a restaurant with you until they are able to abide by "restaurant rules".
1. Practice runs would involve you taking your child to a restaurant to eat but not eating yourself. The focus would be solely on her; her choosing what to eat, her ordering (herself, if she's old enough/outgoing), her waiting for HER food, her eating, and her being ready to leave. The conversation should revolve around her & even lead by her. This would give her an idea of how the grown-ups feel when they're trying to enjoy the meal, not just excited to be out of the house!
2. If your child is just too excited being in a restaurant to contain himself or focus on his meal (after you've exhausted the great ideas in the "restaurant bag" from the 24/7 Moms article), then he should know that he doesn't get to go out with the grown ups if he can't behave with "restaurant manners". It shouldn't be a punishment like "we're going without you b/c you can't behave". It should be a goal he strives for and desires to obtain. If he WANTS to go out to eat, he MUST use "restaurant manners". It's like "church manners", "school bus manners", "we-have-company/guests manners", and "school manners". Why expect less of him just because you want to eat out?
You're still on Mom Duty! ;-)
Thanks for indulging me!
(reposted from Facebook)

February 24, 2011 at 7:04 AM  

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