Family mealtimes are the perfect opportunity to share moments from the day with one another but tensions over the food that is served and the way it is presented (if your children are anything like mine you’ll know what I mean!) can get in the way of enjoying this time of day. Children often change their likes and dislikes but with a little bit of involvement in the decisions that are made about the food they eat can you’re on target for more peaceful mealtimes.
When my eldest daughter decided age four that she was a vegetarian it introduced more factors to be considered to ensure she has a balanced diet that isn’t just pasta every day, while also encouraging her to try new flavours and foods to add variety to mealtimes that also appeal to us grown-ups and our younger daughter too.
By getting our young veggie involved in the meal-planning, shopping and preparing of meals it results in happier mealtimes with less-stress and good food all round.
- Meal-plan together
When planning meals for the week or days ahead, ask your children for suggestions of dinners they would love. They may of course make wild suggestions which aren’t going to work or may not be the healthiest options but work with this and encourage them to tweak their ideas with compromises. You could also give them a few recipe cards, print-outs or show them some dishes online to choose from as their meal choice for a certain day.
- Involve them in the preparation
Not every meal is ideal for children to help prepare and cook, especially when you’re in a hurry to get dinner on the table with hungry children demanding to be fed. But something as simple as encouraging them to count out the vegetables (for younger children) or measuring ingredients will get them excited about the dish they’re helping to create.
If you’re trying out a new meal and want to avoid a frosty reception at the table, that is to a parent what losing a Michelin star is to a top chef, get the children involved in creating the dish. This way they have seen all the ingredients involved so nothing is a shock when it’s served at the table!
- Set the table
Encourage children to set the table for mealtimes, not only does it give them something to do to get out from under your feet while you’re finishing dinner it’s also one less job for you!
- Serve from the table
Unless a comedy face can be created from the meal – which always goes down well in our house! – serving food at the table is another great way to involve children. It may not always be possible with hot dishes and young children around but serving vegetables, salad or accompanying dishes at the table allows them some control over what goes on their plate and it also works well as a bargaining tool: ‘You can help yourself to an extra potato if you have another spoonful of vegetables too’!
- Get the plate right!
Last but not least, when it comes to the little ones, just get the plate right, or else! Serve up even their all time favourite meal on The Wrong Plate and it’ll be meltdown central in your dining room!
Written by CocoMama for Quorn