Suppers are a wonderful opportunity to connect as a family. After a long day away from each other- supper can be the ideal time to re group the family unit, catch up on each others day and just enjoy some together time!
All true, but how realistic is this when you have a fussy toddler and an indignant 4 year old. Just as dad launches into an account of his day little Johnny throws a tantrum as mom has dished up peas on his plate. Little Sarah exclaims that she only eats red stuff and doesn’t like her food. Before you know it mealtime has resorted to a battle ground and cold food for mom and dad!
It is important to remember that when training your child in the eating arena of life you will have your good days and your bad days. Keep your expectations realistic. When you have babies, toddlers and pre scholars you need to keep the following in mind when it comes to the family supper meal:
1. Eat early – the day has been long and children are tired, so if you are planning a family meal then you need to be prepared to eat at ‘their’ time and have everything organized so you can sit down as soon as everyone arrives home from work and school.
2. Food must be child friendly, a warm chicken curry may be the perfect meal for a cold winter night but it is not an appropriate family meal.
3. Adapt the meal so that all can eat similar food with slight variation e.g. mashed butternut vs. butternut pieces.
4. Keep the length of the meal to a minimum of 20 minutes. Engage in simple age appropriate conversation – avoid getting into deep conversation about the day and its occurrences - your child will loose focus and become board!
5. There will be mess so make allowance for this and avoid using your favorite place mats and serviettes that may get stained.
6. Involve your toddler/child in meal preparation and give them little tasks to do when setting the table.
7. Give yourself a night off – feed the children first and once in bed, sit down to a relaxed meal together with your partner.
What should supper consist of:
A lot of toddlers and children go to crèche or school and have lunch at schools. Schools often serve a hot lunch and thus by the time your child comes home they really just need a simple supper. Supper can consist of little bits of cold chicken, avocado slices, cherry tomato and two bread fingers for the child that has already eaten a hot lunch.
Babies are often fed two hot meals a day especially when they are still content to eat mushy food as it is an easy simple option. There is nothing wrong with this however from 7 months you can start including some appropriate finger foods along with the mushy all in one meal. This allows progression of textures and involvement in mealtimes – preparation for the family meal we previously discussed.
Like all other meals and snacks supper should include a variety from the food groups, allowing the toddler especially some choices on the plate e.g. a carrot and apple sliced.
Remember never try force your toddler to eat a particular food! Don’t let supper time become a battleground. Do fun things together so that supper is approached in a relaxed frame of mind. It supper becomes tense, do something different for a few days. Eat out, have a picnic, get your partner or a friend to cook, let siblings decide on the menu. This will help you keep supper super!!!!