Imagine it, you’ve worked hard preparing a healthy dinner for you and your family. When it’s finally time to sit and eat, your oldest starts to complain that he’s not hungry. Your daughter tells you that the food looks disgusting, and your baby has already started throwing her food on the floor. *sigh* You wonder why you even try.
Chances are that you might not have to imagine this…because you’re living it!
Not only is it hard just getting dinner to the table, but then you struggle to actually enjoy it with your kids.
What if I told you that you could easily make dinner and have fun with your kids while you eat?
Well, it is possible.
To help you do that, I’ve made a two part series on family mealtime. My previous post was full of tips about how to get healthy, nutritious food on the table, without all the stress.
Today, it’s all about…
How to Get Everyone to Eat and Enjoy Family Meals
Have ‘em Hungry: If you want your kids to eat what you’ve prepared, you may need to cut back or eliminate snacks leading up to mealtime. If the kids are ravenous in the hour preceding dinner, make sure you give them healthy nibbles or even a little part of the meal you’ve planned.
Keep it Simple: As kids palates are not as sophisticated as adults, they often like things more plain. Adapt dinners as needed to appeal to sensitive taste buds. You can keep the bolder sauces off the kid’s noodles or meat and let them their portion to expand their taste buds. It also works to set a bit of a dish aside before adding a stronger spice. That way, you can prepare just one meal, and still accommodate everyone’s tastes.
Use Strategies to Deal with Picky Eaters: There are many tricks of the trade here, but some of my favorites include:
1) The “one bite rule” so that kids get exposure to new foods they may be skeptical of;
2) Letting your kids choose a meal and help to prepare it—they’re more likely to eat something they have invested time and energy in;
3) Making food look playful by making faces out of veggies on their plates or putting fruits on skewers to make kabobs.
Play at the Table: Yes, really! Keep your kids engaged and talking at the table by playing games. Not only will games keep the conversation moving, but they can also help your little ones to hone their vocabulary and their social skills. Check out some fun game ideas here.
Keep it positive: A recent study in the journal Pediatrics encourages parents to to keep interactions at the dinner table positive and encouraging, rather than harping on our kids to finish their food or not to overeat. Making family dinners a time of joy and emotional connection, a time that the whole family looks forward to, is more important than how long the meal lasts, who eats what, or even what we are serving.
If your dinner table doesn’t look like a Norman Rockwell painting, don’t despair. Take one dinner at a time and know that if you’re consistent in using the strategies above, they will eventually pay off (really!)
If you need some healthy, family-friendly recipes and a meal plan and grocery list for the week, sign up for a free trial of The Six O’Clock Scramble healthy meal planning service. (affiliate link)
Love your tips for making family dinners more enjoyable, Amanda, and thank you for recommending The Six O’Clock Scramble family meal planner!
Fantastic tips! Have you heard that saying “hunger is the best sauce”? It’s so true! My kids will eat most things when they’re hungry (and nothing on Tuesday when they come back from granny’s who obviously feeds them too well!)