I have seen a few moms sharing about their struggles to get their little ones to eat. I think it is one of the biggest battles moms have, next to sleeping issues. I know I have struggled with it in the past but it is a battle we have decided to no longer fight.
Some of you will know about our sensory integration journey with all four kids. This is a contributor to kids not wanting to sit down and eat but more than that I think we approach food and meal times incorrectly. We assume kid’s don’t know when they are hungry so we “force” them to eat when we assume they need to (usually at very set times). As adults we don’t necessarily get hungry at lunch time and some days we just don’t feel like dinner, right? Why do we assume kids are different? We also don’t like all food types. I don’t like mango but my kids do. I don’t eat mango just because I buy it and my kids like, so why force the kids to eat food they don’t like just because I do.
I have changed a lot about the way I treat food when it comes to my kids which means we fight a lot less about food and meal times are not conventional at all but everyone is healthy and does eat.
So what do meal times look like in our house?
There are no meal times and by this I mean we seldom sit at the table together and eat. (Despite this we do manage a lot of family “together” time where we discuss each others day, so keep reading). During the school week everyone gets home at different times, everyone has different activities on so if we had to wait for everyone to be home to eat dinner we would eat dinner at around 19h00 and this depends on Cameron’s training, it could end up being later some nights. This is not realistic for everyone.
I cook dinner to be ready around 16h30 and then everyone eats as and when they are ready. I can see some of you twitching a little at the thought but waiting for the kids to get hungry and be ready to eat, means when they dish up, they eat their food, no fighting. I don’t force them to eat veggies or food I know they do not like. I try to cook food I know they all like but some nights I will cook something that someone doesn’t like. On those nights I do make an alternative but it is not a proper cooked meal, it is usually something simple like cheese toast or scrambled eggs.
Breakfasts are pretty much the same. The older kids will eat when they are ready, for Kiara it is often 9h30/10h00 on the weekends. When the younger two ask for something, I make it for them. Yes it means sometimes I make 3 breakfasts but the upside is, they eat it and there is no fighting.
Currently they are all at school for lunch but on weekends, the same thing happens. I make something based on suggestions or requests and then they eat as and when they are ready.
Most Sundays we do make a big meal and sit down together and eat but most of the time Emma isn’t ready to eat so she chills with us and will eat afterwards.
This works for us because no one is forced to sit down, they can bounce around while eating. They aren’t rushed, Emma likes to take her time to enjoy her food (I assume). They learn to identify when they are hungry instead of learning to ignore what their bodies are telling them. We eliminate unnecessary fighting.
We still switch the TV off after 17h00 and it is during that time that we talk a lot about our days. The older kids and I talk a lot in the car between extra-muruals. I find we actually get more out of them during this time than if we are sitting around the table trying to get everyone to eat or sit still.
The idea of everyone sitting around the table eating their meals together is a very pretty one but it is often not how it works in reality. We have found a solution that works for us and I know it won’t work for everyone. If you are battling a little one who won’t eat and fights you every meal time, maybe give this a try, it is a whole lot better than everyone getting frustrated and the child still not eating anyway.