If dreams of a fun, peaceful and meaningful family dinner have dwindled now that you are in the throws of real-life motherhood, this one’s for you. Family dinners with a baby can be crazy and chaotic but we’ve got tips to help you make it work – for at least 8 minutes.
Set the Bar Low
A manageable family dinner starts with having realistic expectations. If you think multiple children are going to sit still, not whine or cry and eat everything on their plates during every meal, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Rather, go into meals knowing that it won’t be perfect and embrace the imperfection.
Serve Something for Everyone
If you’re already spent by the time you sit down for a meal, your patience is not going to withstand the scene. Try to keep meal preparation simple and serve the same meal to everyone that includes at least one thing each person likes. That way you know each family member will eat something. For babies, try to puree or mash up what you are already making. If it helps, miniaturize your foods or turn them into fun shapes.
Wait to be Seated
Little ones have a hard time sitting still for too long. Wait to call everyone to the table when the meal is completely ready. Try to have everything you need already on the table to limit your ups and downs, which can be distracting to little eaters.
Eating at 5 p.m. may not be your ideal dining experience but if that’s what is best for your kids, do it. When young children are hungry and can’t express their desire to eat, they get cranky, fast. Rather than starting the meal in a cranky state, head off the tantrums by eating at the right hour. Also, limit snacking within two hours of mealtime.
Have Happy Meals
Set the tone for happiness by making mealtime fun, yet appropriate. If some of your kids are old enough to have conversations, talk about what’s going on in each of your lives. For younger children and babies, sometimes it takes reading books, telling stories, singing songs or otherwise being silly to get through a meal. If this helps your kids associate mealtime with good times, do it. You’ll set yourself up for success when they are older.
Set Guidelines and Stick to Them
Establish rules about meal times early in life. This includes no electronics, no potty mouths and using manners (to the extent possible for your age ranges). Also, encourage your kids to try at least one bite of what you are serving. If they don’t like it, don’t force them to eat it. But no one knows what they like until they try it. You can even enforce that with your baby by dabbling a little on her lips. If your kids decide they dislike a food, try again another time. It often takes repeated exposure to adopt new foods.
It’s all Temporary
Meals with babies and toddlers are especially challenging. But remember your babies and toddlers grow up all-too-fast. The chaos today will be tomorrow’s most meaningful moments. Keep this in perspective before you snap or give up on family dinners with a baby altogether.
Sources: Huffington Post, Mom to Mom Nutrition and One Thankful Mom