Dinner time can be tough. Trying to juggle the varied and ever-changing preferences of the whole family is challenging. Then, when the meal is ready, you can’t get everyone assembled together at the table at the same time. Then, when you get everyone sitting together at the table, the protests, complaints, and acting up begin. Sound familiar?
Furthermore, dinner time can be particularly problematic if you have younger children or picky eaters. So how can you make dinner time a pleasant part of the day and have everyone enjoy the meal? Here is some food for thought: 7 steps to getting your kids to love dinner time.
Get them involved in cooking – okay, so it might take longer and it might get messier, but involving children in preparation and cooking is sure to make them more interested in the final product. Get creative, allowing them to customize their food into shapes and designs, or even adding faces and names. They will definitely enjoy eating their own creations, and serving them to other people in the family too.
Make food fun – one idea is to prepare a nibble tray, with bite-size portions of colorful but nutritious food. Younger children love variety, and they can easily eat this food with their hands and switch between foods. You could even go a step further by coming up with playful names for each finger food. The way you serve food also matters. If they don’t want to eat fruit, make them a smoothie. Cut food into shapes or add dips to less desirable foods. Serve things they like as a treat but make a healthy version of them. There are several ways to make it more appealing and fun.
Theme nights and games – have theme nights and use your imagination, with costumes, flags, and other appropriate props. It’s educational and fun, and also encourages everyone to branch out and try different cuisines. Playing simple games is also sure to have kids looking forward to dinner time. Although make sure that activities remain calm and don’t interfere too much with eating.
Company – make dinner time a nice time for family to talk about the day and spend time together. Of course, sometimes it’s not practical, and things come up or go off schedule, but even if you can make it a goal, and the rule instead of the exception, it will be worth it. This way, children will not only associate dinner time with food, but also with family fun. It also gives everyone a chance to bond, resolve conflict, and learn from each other. You could even let them bring a friend over occasionally.
Timing – if your child is too hungry or not hungry enough, you have a problem either way. Going too long without food will cause your child’s blood sugar levels to drop and their behavior to deteriorate. But if your kids fill up on snacks right before dinner, then they won’t be hungry enough to eat their proper meal. The Guardian encourages parents to try and strike a balance between the two and try to maintain at least a rough schedule for snacks and meals, to eliminate this problem.
Portion sizes – a child’s stomach is about the size of their fist, so keep this in mind when providing servings. Keep portions small and wait for kids to ask for more if they want more. Let them set the pace as much as possible. Always keep in mind that maybe when they say they are full, they really are full! It’s best not to get into too much of a battle over this, because it will ruin their dinner experience as well as everyone else’s. Of course, if you know they’re not really full, you could always try the “just one more bite” approach.
Dessert – promising dessert at the end of their meal is a good incentive for children, providing them with an end goal and something to look forward to. It reminds them that good behavior will be rewarded and that sometimes they will have to do things they don’t want to do, in order to do what they like doing. These are not only great dinner lessons, but life lessons! Just make sure you don’t give in and let them have the dessert without finishing their main meal.
Your kids will love dinner time in no time!
- License: Creative Commons image source
Belinda Smith is a mother of four children. She writes often on the topics of motherhood and food ideas for kids.