My boys eat. I think it is one of their favorite things to do. I am often asked how I get them to eat (fill in your healthy food here). In fact I am often asked this, as my boys are often spotted eating. I thought I’d answer that question here today.
I’m sure there are a great deal of factors that go into making a child a good or lousy eater, so I thought I’d just start from the beginning. Take or leave any of the ideas I’ve used, but remember not to give up and to be consistent! It can take a while!
My husband and I enjoy eating, and from the day they were born, my sons have seen us eating many different things. From their first days, we’d bring them in the dining room during meal times, and they’d lay in their little bouncy seat while we ate. Eventually, they moved to their high chair, and played with plastic spoons as we ate. We were lucky enough to all be home for dinner each night, and so never needed separate eating times for kids and adults.
At meal times, everyone eats the same thing, or at least a version of the same thing. Even when my children were eating purees only, I’d puree what we were eating, or at least part of it, and give it to them. I think a big part of eating is smell. If you’re smelling something delicious, but what you’re eating isn’t, you’re going to be disappointed by eating.
Also, I’ve had the boys involved in cooking their own food as much as possible.
Finally, and I know this is easier said than done, what you get to eat is what you get to eat. If you do not feel like eating it, that is fine, you can still sit and enjoy conversation at dinner, but you do not get anything else. On the rare occasions when there is something else (dessert), you must finish what you have to eat before you get that. It’s our rule. It has caused crying, but is generally accepted because it’s all they’ve known, and they know we don’t give in.
It’s not always been easy, but it does end up with children that are better nourished, have good table manners, and are willing to try new things. We usually have pleasant dinners together, and going out to a restaurant does not intimidate us (although I do see other tables cringe when we come in).
What prompted this post besides the questions? A few days ago, we went out for lunch. If you’ve checked any children’s menus lately, you know there are few if any healthy options. I gave Joe a choice of a grilled cheese sandwich, a burger, or a salad from the kids menu. What did he choose?