The dinner time fight. It might as well be held in a boxing
ring and announced with the ding of a bell. If you have kids, you probably know
the fight. There are different ways it can go, but the conversation will
involve the following phrases, "Just try it," "You only need to eat one
(two/three) bites of it" and "You liked it the last time I made it." The end
result is usually the same: "I don't like it!"
So maybe you have tried playing
it cool, "You don't have to eat it." That works. Absolutely. It avoids a fight.
I use it. But there are other things you can add to your repertoire to get them
more interested in dinner time.
Everything tastes better when it's served with
a side of fresh air and sunshine. I try to have family meals outside as often
as possible. For whatever reason, my kids eat more when we're outside. Maybe
it's primal. Who knows? But it works.
2. Can't eat outside? Have dinner picnic-style on the floor
The only whining you will hear is your own when you try to get up.
No, you're not going to do this every night, but it can be a special weekend treat
to throw a blanket on the kitchen floor and serve dinner on paper plates. The only whining you will hear is your own when you try to get up.
3. Use color
My kids love bright colors and I try to
incorporate as much color on the table as possible, from the serving dishes to
flowers to the food itself. It doesn't have to be elaborate—a pretty
machine-wash tablecloth and a couple of bright serving bowls make them "ooh"
and gets them to the table.
4. Offer a variety of small snacks to go with the main meal
use ramekin bowls and fill them with crackers, apple slices, grapes, cheese, carrots, whatever I have on hand.
That way, even if my boys aren't eating the main dish I know they're getting
enough to eat and I'm not catering to their specific requests.
5. Once a week, let each child plan a meal
probably end up having hotdogs and macaroni and cheese, but it helps them feel
grown up by choosing what everyone will eat. And who knows, they might choose
something other than their usual go-tos.
6. Presentation is everything
When I was in the hospital for a
few days in April, my 3-year-old ate my mushy, unseasoned hospital food
simply because it was delivered on a covered tray. You don't have to buy a
covered tray, but try making meal time an event a preschooler can anticipate.
7. Have leftovers
Rather than make seven dinners a week, make
enough for the family to have leftovers on two to three nights. That way, if your
daughter's favorite food is spaghetti, you can serve it to her for several
meals while the rest of the family has something else. You're not catering to
her and she might still opt for a few bites of the meatloaf or chicken tikka
The fight that happens at dinner
time doesn't seem to happen at breakfast. Is it the foods, the time of day or the
fact that you have more energy at 8 a.m. to deal with any complaints? Whatever it
is, if it's been a particularly rough day and you can't bring yourself to climb
into the ring come dinner time, heat up the griddle, scramble an egg or just
pour a bowl of cereal and call it a night.