As a parent, how many days each week do you struggle to get your entire family to eat the same thing at a given meal? Two days? Four days? Every day? Someone is mad, someone is late, someone doesn’t like what you fixed, the list goes on and on. Do you ask yourself why you waste your time even trying? You are not alone in this never-ending battle of food and family. Take heart and read on. Below are some strategies that will hopefully help.
Have a plan. Getting your kids involved in the entire process of the meal is one way that often makes them eager to consume what you put in front of them. Today I would like to outline how you can easily get your children on board with creating and eating family meals.
- Plan a weekly menu
Ask your kids to offer suggestions about what they would like to eat each week. Look through magazines, online, or in your recipe box for ideas. If your child requests something specific, consider it. If they want to try something new, great. Allow your kids to be involved with the planning part of the week’s meals.
- Write a shopping list
Have them write the shopping list. Sound out the words, write them in a row, group them by type of food, etc. The great thing about involving your kids in family meals is that it is highly academic as well.
- Take them shopping
Other than an opportunity to spend an hour together talking and shopping, this is a great way for them to pick out ingredients and compare prices. Have your child be in charge of coupons, crossing things off the shopping list, comparing prices on like items, and picking fresh fruits and veggies.
- Unpacking the groceries
Kids usually know where things go. Have them organize from oldest to newest, make sure things are in a straight row, or refold grocery bags.
- Read the recipe
If you are using a recipe, have your child read the recipe. Make sure it is easy to read, either typed or in legible handwriting. If you are using a family recipe, talk about where the recipe came from and why it is special to your family. If they are not able to read, have them get out the items as you read.
- Preparing the meal
Giving kids jobs such as cutting, measuring, stirring, watching the timer, setting the oven, and setting the table are easy and fun. Any child who can help should be invited to join in. Ensure you have age-appropriate tools for your children.
- Dinner conversation
As I mentioned last week in the Family Participation blog, have a jar of questions that family members can ask each other. It is easy to talk about the day, but when that gets a little boring it is nice having a backup conversation. You can pick one question to ask everyone, or have one person designated each night as the question asker. Rotating seats so that the person at the head of the table is in charge is a fun way to mix it up.
Involving your kids from start to finish in meal preparation is great for several reasons. It gets your kids excited to eat the meal they have just helped prepare. It allows you to spend some uninterrupted time with them. They are using their academic skills. It may take a little longer, so be patient and have fun. If you are not able to have them help every night, pick a few nights when you can involve them. Of course, don’t forget to have them help with the clean up as well.
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