Picture it. Everyone is seated at the table, sharing the highs and lows of his or her day, passing the vegetables and potatoes around to accompany the tasty cut of meat (or tofu!) on their plates. And then, without complaint, everyone begins eating. To some, this Norman Rockwell painting is a blissful reality. But more than likely, if you have little people in your household, mealtimes can often be some of the most challenging parts of the day.
Here are just a few ideas to help make things easier:
1. Have your kids take ownership of the meal. Whether your culinary skill level is French chef or short order cook, you can always break the food preparation into smaller jobs that you can delegate. Getting the kids involved in the meal-making process often results in an increased interest in actually eating the food they prepared. For younger children like mine, the job could be something as simple as breaking the broccoli florets off the stems and putting them in the steamer. If you have older children like Michele, they can stir, blend and even chop the ingredients. In the end, you’ve not only created a great meal, but you’ve also managed to squeeze in a little more quality time together as a family.
2. Be creative with your presentation. Every good chef knows that how a food looks can often be as important as how it tastes, right? Don’t our kids deserve that same consideration? Children are naturally drawn to colorful and dynamic subject matter, so it can be helpful to carry those qualities over to the dinner table. Family magazines, parenting websites and (especially) Pinterest offer many ideas to help your child’s menu items jump right off the plate.
3. Encourage new foods by accompanying them with old favorites. It’s sort of like the buddy system. If your child really likes macaroni and cheese, consider reducing its portion size and pairing it up with a new vegetable. By allowing the tried-and-true food to help introduce the newcomer to the party, your child will be less overwhelmed and thus more willing to try something unfamiliar.
4. Hide the evidence. If my children are especially picky about how something looks or is prepared, I throw them off the scent but cutting the “offender” into smaller pieces or mixing it in with something else they like. Michele says her kids have always loved fruit smoothies. And, with a little ingenuity, these blender-concoctions can be an amazing place for vegetables to hide out from “unsuspecting victims.” Creative, kid-friendly smoothie recipes can be found on a variety of websites, including Inhabitots.
5. Offer an incentive to reach the finish line. Incentives can be a parent’s best friend from birth to college graduation. Used judiciously (and realistically), your end result will be a happier child with a diversified palate. Just remember that a clean plate may be too ambitious of a goal for some children. Consider agreeing together on a specific number of bites they have to take to earn the desired reward of ice cream, TV time, an extra bedtime book, etc.
The bottom line is that dinner should be a pleasant time when everyone comes together to reconnect with each other and decompress from the stresses of the day. It should not be a frustrating battle of wills. By making subtle changes in your approach to food introduction, you and your child can look forward to creating this peaceful environment at your family table.
And because we always eat all of our Brussels sprouts and lima beans… Michele and I were nominated for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Funny Moms contest. Voting is simple.
1. Click here.
2. Find ‘Old Dog New Tits’ and ‘According to Mags.’
3. Click the ‘vote’ button next to each one.
You can vote once every 24 hours until Feb. 13.
We appreciate all your support!
Melissa is the founder and editor of According to Mags, a blog about her children’s silly antics that keep her and her readers entertained. She also co-produces with her husband a children’s story podcast called Night Light Stories. Melissa is the proud mom of a seven-year-old boy and five-year-old girl. She holds a Masters degree in Special Education and is in her thirteenth year of teaching. Mel has taught all grade levels from preschool to grade five in both general and special education. Currently, she is a supervisor for student teachers at Walden University as well as a Homebound Teacher in the evenings.
Michele is the founder and editor of Old Dog New Tits, an award-winning blog about whatever craziness crosses her family’s path. She is a freelance writer for various websites, magazines and newspapers and is always looking for new projects. She hopes to publish some of her independent work in the near future. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Arts Administration. As a married mother of two from New Orleans, she is actively involved in her children’s lives and has served as everything from Room Mom to Brownie Leader to even PTA President. She loves cheese almost as much as her children and thought it imperative that she include that fact in her biography.