Whether you have slaved away for hours over a meal and your little cherub is stubbornly refusing to open their mouth to even try it, if food ends up everywhere, including on you, or if they have a tantrum every time their favourite meal of sausages and chips isn’t put in front of them, here are some top tips on how to make meal times less stressful for you and the kids when eating at home…
- Stay calm – once you realise that there is sometimes nothing you can do to make your little one eat and that their favourite meal is the next day the most disgusting thing you have ever put in front of them, just take a deep breath and stay calm. Bribes and getting angry will just give them more attention and possibly make the next meal time even worse, so just shrug it off, ignore any fussiness and try and not comment on how much they have, or haven’t eaten. Try and look at the bigger picture and if they are reaching their milestones and are healthy then them occasionally not eating isn’t going to do them any harm. Children are pretty good at knowing how much to eat and they may rather fill up more at one meal and have less at the next. However, if you have any concerns then speak to your health visitor or GP
- Try and incorporate their main hot meal with yours – this may sound easier than it is in reality, especially with fussy eaters and juggling eating with naps and children who want to eat early, but you don’t want to cook lots of different meals. Try and eat the main meal at the same time, or you could do them a special portion of your meal for them to eat the next day, so at least it is ready to cook!
- If they’re old enough, get them involved in cooking and learning about food – this will get them interested in food and having fun, and show them that time and effort goes into the meals that you lovingly make for them. Besides they may think it tastes better if they have helped prepare it!
And that’s just at home – when they are in a restaurant it can be even more stressful! Here are some tips for eating out with kids…
- Forget fancy Michelin-star restaurants – now it is all about family-friendly dining that has highchairs and kids menus, and patient staff that are used to dealing with messy kids. Planning is key to make sure that you choose the right restaurant and book in advance. Also think about the meal time and fitting around their routine, and naps, where possible. A tired and overly hungry child is not going to have a good time in a restaurant where they have to wait to eat. Oh, and remember to order the food and drinks quickly (ideally having looked at the menu in advance!)
- Distraction – have a bag full of their favourite toys, books, pens and paper and anything that will distract them while you wait for their food. If they become really noisy be ready to take them outside for a breather and a quick walk for some fresh air – for you and them!
Written by a mum of two-year-old twins!