Mealtime for children should be fun, enjoyable, and appealing. That doesn’t mean you have to allow them to play games and watch videos while eating because that will have a negative impact on their eating habits. What appealing means is to make the food they eat enjoyable in terms of taste, health meter, colors, and shapes. This will start a healthy eating habit that they can take until they are well into adulthood.
Making Mealtime a Pleasant Time
You need to lead the way. Show your enthusiasm for healthy food by talking positively about your meals. Be excited about the prospect of eating vegetables and fruits. Get excited about it as much as you are about eating cakes, ice cream, and candies. Make sure that you share the meals with them. Letting them eat on their own is no good. Sit down as a family at the dining table and have normal conversations.
But what makes mealtime interesting for children is if they have a role to play there. As early as their toddler years, teach them how to set the table, serve the food, spread the jam, and pour the milk. In fact, you should also teach them to wipe the table and wash the dishes. This will teach them about responsibility.
Another way to make them interesting in food is to prepare the meals with them. Read about easy dinner recipes for kids, and then make it a point to cook that with them. You can ask them to cut the string beans with their hands or mash the potatoes. Let them prepare the food so that they can get the feel of the whole plan and execution.
Sometimes, children are not too fond of mealtime because they find it hard to sit at the table, use utensils, and drink from their cups. Make mealtimes not only enjoyable but simple, too. Don’t make it a difficult process for the kids. Instead of having them sit on regular chairs, use a booster so that they can easily reach the table. Use kiddie-sized furniture and utensils in the dining room. Transfer them in squeeze bottles if you have jellies, peanut butter, mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise.
Don’t be obsessed with cleanliness in the dining area that you won’t allow children to use their fingers for the food. You should actually serve finger food quite frequently because it is the best way to introduce new food for the kids. If they spill their milk or drop crumbs on the floor, Don’t panic, and let them know that it’s okay to spill liquid and drop food as long as they know how to clean after themselves.
Making Food Appealing
Children have specific preferences when it comes to food. If you keep serving them the same items repeatedly, they will lose their taste for it. Also, try to inject textures, shapes, and colors into your mealtime. This means serving the food at just the right temperature—not very hot or very cold and choosing to serve crunchy, crispy, and creamy food. Most children dislike lumpy vegetables and fruits.
Two of the things you can do is serve food in different colors and shapes. By making sure you have fruits and vegetables on the table, you’re already injecting more colors into their mealtime. The food should take shape, too. Try serving round crackers, cheese cubes, chicken strips, and apple wedges. For the sandwich, cut it into triangles. You can also use molders for the rice and cookie cutters for the fruits.
The problem for most parents is when it is time to introduce a new food to their children. How are you suddenly going to incorporate okra into their meals? The trick is not to introduce it on its own. Rather, mix it up with their favorite food so that they don’t mind it. Continue incorporating it into their food until the taste is fully integrated into their palates. Once their taste buds get used to the food in question, you can then start serving it on its own.
Parents are always struggling with how to make their kids eat healthily. Remember how it was with you when you were a kid, too. Didn’t your parents have a hard time making you eat fruits and vegetables? Wasn’t mealtime a bore when you keep on eating the same thing? Apply what you learned from your experience. Don’t serve the same thing again and again. Incorporate colors and shapes into your meals. And lastly, make mealtime fun by spending it with your family.