Sometimes it seems like getting kids to actually sit down and eat dinner is an impossible task… at least at my house. To be honest, The Goose has never been much of an eater. When he was a toddler simply mentioning the word “snack” would cause a meltdown of epic proportions complete with screaming, throwing himself on the floor, the works. When it came time to eat a meal at the table, we had to use some pretty creative methods to keep him interested.
Through the years we’ve tried several techniques to encourage The Goose to eat – and some have worked better than others. We’ve tried everything from “Who can finish their breakfast first?” to “If you finish your lunch you can have a piece of candy.” (This from a woman who was once convinced she’d never, ever resort to bribery to get her kid to do something).
Not all of our methods worked – but a few things we tried really did help The Goose take the time to sit down and eat. Even if it was just a few bites.
When The Goose was little, I’d let him push the button on the mini food processor each time he took a bite. Yes, meals took forever. Yes, it drove me absolutely insane. But, it got him to eat. And sometimes, that was all I could ask for.
When he got bigger, and the novelty of pushing the food processor button wore off, I’d do other things like read books to him while he ate. We’d typically read funny and silly books that were about eating, like If You Give a Moose a Muffin or If You Give a Pig a Pancake. We loved reading at the table, and even through his giggles he usually managed to eat most of his food!
Sometimes, we’d let him sit at his small table, which is in our dining room. He’d set his stuffed animals on each of the chairs, and we’d give each of them plates with a few bites of food on them. The Goose would eat the food off of each plate, and my husband and I would act surprised when we’d see that the food was gone.
We went through a period where we’d have a family picnic at least once a week. I’d make a meal that was mostly non-messy finger foods, and we’d head outside to eat dinner in the backyard, or we’d lay out a blanket in the middle of the living room. We’d invite all of The Goose’s stuffed animals to join us, and we’d all gather together for dinner.
Recently I learned that we’re not the only parents who use creative methods to encourage kids to eat. I have a friend who is a master at parenting, and has a lot of great methods for handling tough situations. From time to time, on nights when her kids have a lot of after school activities, she feeds her kids dinner in the car. She sets a couple different finger foods in between them, and calls it airplane food. Her kids LOVE it – and it ends up being a no-fuss meal for her.
I have another friend who had two picky eaters in her house, so she resorted to feeding her kids dinner in disposable pie tins, calling it “Mountain Man Food”. Her kids cleaned their plate every time.
These days, The Goose is getting a little better about sitting down and eating dinner. He still plays with his food, we still have to count his bites (at least two of each thing on his plate), and he sometimes gets up and wanders around at mealtimes. It can be a little frustrating, but I try to keep in mind something that my very wise sister-in-law once told me – You can’t force a kid to sleep, poop or eat. But, in my opinion, you can at least make it fun. (The eating part, that is…).