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Battlefield...at dining table ?

>> Oct 25, 2009

Many Moms find mealtimes with kids challenging. It’s a matter of kids wanting to assert controls over their choices and Moms wanting to ensure kids gets the most balanced nutrition minus the junk food. So, is it always a battle-field?

I’ve had my fair share… it’s frustrating, not being able to get any food into the tightly sealed mouth & small arms crossed. After persuading, encouraging, cajoling, coaxing… and bribing, I was ready to give up… it can happen at any of the main mealtimes, including between-meals snacks.

Sigh! Yes, I’m trying to be more understanding from Max’s point of view. Being more positive, rather than forcing…

I try to change the menu daily. A variety for the little one may give him some choices, though he may pick the same one as he always does. Children like familiarity.  Sometimes, I’ll serve stir-fry mix-veggies in many colours which is more attractive than just ‘greens’. Carrot sticks and cucumber sticks with his favourite dipping sauce make good snacks.

On lazy weekends, we’ll invite suggestions from the little one to decide on Sunday lunch or Saturday dinner and acceding to his request (if it’s not junk food), that makes him feel important. Perhaps letting him choose 1 of 2 may be easier. (The little minx will sometimes opt for the not-on-offer 3rd! … Hahaha)
Food presented in fun shape and size will make mealtimes and snack fun. I use cookie-cutter or even scissors and cut out funny and fancy shapes in butter toasts too. He will even dip veggie-flavoured crackers into yoghurt… and pronounce as “Very Good” for his snack.

A little mess & less fuss at mealtime is fine. Accidental spills can happen… encourage him to collect and wipe clean with the kitchen towel.

No distraction during mealtime. This rule is very important as we should enjoy our meals, the variety spread, the taste, the texture, the aroma & smell to the accompaniment of perhaps some soft music, some light conversation and yes, we discuss about the food. We would prefer to enjoy our meals without the TV blasting away, no individual TV-dinner trays and we do not spoon-feed him, not since he turned 4. No toys or books or magazine at mealtimes.

Food is served warm. Yes, I always try to ensure the food is served warm except for chilled desserts. Yup, the old Chinese saying of keeping the tummy warm with warm food is subscribed in this home! J

Max gets his own set of cutlery set, plate, bowl and cup. As far as possible, allow use of ceramic, though breakable but the little one gets a sense of being treated like an adult. The day Max got his own ceramic set at age 4+, he said, “Mom, this is ceramic, easily breakable right? I must be very careful.” He was learning responsibilities. J

Max is sometimes in the kitchen… lured by the inviting smells drifting from the kitchen hob, like when I’m making pork stew. J He likes that very much. He wants to see me chop garlic or onion, he’ll pick up and put close to his nose and identify.
*      Just be extremely careful with kids in the kitchen.

Let the little one help out. Sometimes, he'll set the table. I’ve made it clear that Max must set his own used cutlery, plate, bowl & cup in the kitchen sink after use which he does after each meal now, including his own milk bottle. Sometimes he’ll wash up… (eyes rolling)… yes, the sink is almost flooded, a bigger clean-up ensues with suds on windows… hahaha… he’s having fun!

Take your little one shopping for grocery and food, this is a very educational trip for kids. I’ll explain the various types of veggies, fruits, dry foodstuff and even baked good available from the confectionery section. Let the little one help with the planning for menu, something for him to look forward to.

As far as possible I try not to serve dinner right after a game of soccer or a very rigorous activity.  He’ll drink gallons of water, too much liquid and he’s too full to enjoy the meal.

Setting a good example during mealtimes is very important. Children love to mimic adults, consciously and unconsciously. We try to ensure a regular family mealtime, a good bonding time, actually. Getting up a few minutes earlier to have breakfast together is one. Weekday dinners are practically impossible with the terrible evening traffic but we sit down to eat proper meals during weekends, either eating out or one of my ‘experiments’.

If others Moms have any suggestions, please feel free to drop a line or two, it'll be nice to share some experience. I'd love to hear from you. Thanks in advance.

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