The go-to author for stress-free cooking for kids of all ages, Aileen Cox Blundell, has these tips for helping make calm and enjoyable family mealtimes a reality.
Too often family mealtimes can be rushed and stressful. In her new book, The Baby-Friendly Family Cookbook, Aileen Cox Blundell shares how you can reclaim that time and ensure dinners become a cherished daily ritual for you and your brood.
1. “Tell me about your day.”
Those words alone can bring us to the brink of laughter or even tears. Some are great and some days are not so great, but sharing our ups and downs has been a great way to stay in touch with one another. Especially as kids get older, they need a space where they know that they can talk and be themselves. Talking and laughing about the things we have gone through and helping each other are a great boost to confidence, and many times we’ve left the table saying, ‘You’re right, I can do this after all’.
2. Zero stress
This is the hardest one, especially if you have a fussy eater, but try to make the dinner table stress-free. Sometimes, the less you show you are bothered about your toddler eating vegetables the more they will eat, and when they see you eating asparagus spears, they will see vegetables and other foods they’re being fussy about as a normal part of a meal. Remember they will get there eventually, so no point getting too stressed about it.
3. Give everyone a job
It shouldn’t just be the child’s job to show up and eat! If your little ones are involved, whether that’s in prep or cooking or helping to clear the table, the more it will feel like a family event. We all know kids are more like to eat what they’ve helped cook too, so help them take pride in their kitchen skills.
4. Have a plan
Schedule in dinner time so that it is a non-negotiable part of the day, no matter what time soccer practice is on! It helps to have quick dinner ideas in your arsenal, and to amend mealtimes to suit everyone’s schedule.
5. Try themed meals
Dinner will be more exciting if everyone can get on board with a fun theme. Lighting candles and playing Spanish music on Spotify on Mexican night, or having colourful tablecloths for Indian night, are simple ways to make mealtimes something to look forward to.
6. Make veggies the norm
If you have fussy kids that are turning their nose up at vegetables, just calmly reinforce the idea that vegetables are a healthy and delicious part of every meal. The more they see them the more they will accept them. Always put them on their plate, encourage them to take even just one bite, and chat about the benefits.