Experiences with food are heavily related to our emotional state and the environment we are in. A person is much more likely to enjoy their food if they are relaxed, comfortable and happy. Restaurants devote time and resources to creating an enjoyable atmosphere. Having a child with feeding challenges can make mealtime tense and less enjoyable for everyone. Below are some simple tricks to make mealtime fun again.
1. Check Your Own Mood
Rushing to prepare a meal in the middle of a chaotic household is no small feat. However, before expecting kids to be calm and happy during mealtime, adults need to check in with themselves. Kids pick up on cues from the adults around them; the presence of a calm and engaged parent during dinner will send signals they can relax.
2. Plan Screen Time Carefully
Although screen time is a necessity for many families during these difficult times, lots of children become upset when asked to turn off their devices. If children are asked to turn off their devices immediately before dinner, you may see frustrated and sullen children appear at the table.
3. Be Playful and Use Your Sense of Humor
- Surprise your child and set a plate for their favorite stuffed animal at dinner. Spend dinner talking to the stuffed animal as if they are part of the family.
- Put on some kid-friendly background music.
- With younger children, put a piece of food on your nose (and don’t be surprised when they imitate you!).
For ideas on how to make kids of all ages laugh, click HERE.
4. Establish Family Routines
Adults are calmer in situations when we know what to expect, and the same goes for kids. Having regular mealtime routines and expectations can help promote a calm environment.
5. Talk About Something Other Than Food!
There is absolutely a time and place for talking about the properties of foods, as well as drawing your child’s attention to food. However, excessively talking about food can be unpleasant, especially for kids who are nervous about eating. Talking about things which your child is interested in and enjoys may help lighten the mood. If you would like ideas for dinnertime conversation, click HERE.
6. Give Yourself Grace
You care so much about your child that you are taking the time to read this blog post! Even if mealtime doesn’t go perfectly, remind yourself that you are doing your best. Some days will go better than others, and that’s okay.
Your house may never have the atmosphere of a carefully crafted 5-star restaurant, but if you have a laughing child at the table, you just might feel glad to be home.