Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Keep Kids Seated During Meals


We all want to enjoy a nice relaxed meal around the table as a family, but the fact is most of the time our kids don't want to stay seated for very long.  How do we teach, encourage and persuade our young kids to enjoy a meal for more than 10 minutes? Here are some tips for doing just that.

At home tips:
Set expectations- tell them what you expect of them before dinner begins and be consistent.  Make sure those expectations are reasonable for their age.

Set the mood- turn off the T.V. and turn on some music.  Come to the table as your most relaxed, present and enthusiastic self.  Enthusiasm is contagious.

Start a conversation- tell stories and engage.

Give your full attention- most kids run amok because they are given the opportunity. As parents our attention is divided, we are still cooking, on the phone, focused on something else, so they busy themselves. Make meals sacred. Kids love undivided attention, they'll literally eat it up!

Read books- for really young kids this is a great way to spend dinner. Especially if they are eating before you and your spouse.  It will keep them super happy, eating more and you will find yourself enjoying the quality time.

Kitchen helpers- having your little one participate in creating the meal will increase interest in the meal.  Keeping them interested means keeping them seated.

Give a task- have them set the table, pour water, get the salad dressings, etc. Really little kids are eager to help, it's their nature.  Giving them a task gives them a purpose and boosts self-esteem.

Establish predictable meal times- keep meals as consistent as possible. Most kids can't eat as late as adults.  They may need to eat a meal before you and your spouse. If so sit with them and engage.  You are laying down the foundation for future family meals.

Make sure your child is hungry- try not to allow snacks 2 hours before their meal.

Candle light dinners- start a ritual such as lighting a candle at the beginning of each meal.  Your little one can blow the candle out at the end of the meal.  (We found this fantastic tip at www.feeding.com)

Know their limitations- have reasonable expectations for the amount of time your child can sit at a table depending upon their age.


Restaurant tips:
Set expectationsthis is vital.  Tell them what you expect of them before you walk into the restaurant. For the really little ones, explain exactly what is going to happen, "First we'll order drinks, then we'll wait and talk..." This may seem like overkill, it's not.  Kids like to feel in control and knowing what's going to happen will reassure them.

Order early- for really young children, order their meals when you order your drinks. This will help prevent toddler meltdowns.

Dodge bad timing- avoid eating out during nap time or when your child is already beyond the point of hunger.  Set yourself up for success by timing your trip just right.

Distribute food slowly- this is a great tip for really young kids.  Food in and of itself is entertaining, so give it to them gradually and in small portions.

Know their limitations- have reasonable expectations for the amount of time your child can sit at a table depending upon their age.  Increase amount of time spent at restaurants slowly.  They'll get better at it over time.

Distract them by engaging them- point out decorations, the kitchen, anything your child might find interesting. Talk about what's going on. Tell stories. Engage! Make it a fun experience for everyone.

Bring stuff- we all know this one don't we? In case the restaurant doesn't offer crayons and paper, bring appropriate materials to keep your child engaged.

Practice makes perfect- Restaurants are noisy, distracting and exciting.  Eating out is a practice in patience and patience takes practice.  Keep taking them to eat out despite all the ups and downs.  They'll get the hang of it.

Have a back up plan - after you receive your order, ask your sever for the check.  This way if things get out of control, you can leave the restaurant right away.  This is your back up plan and is a good idea when you have toddlers who are trying their best but don't always succeed.

What tips have you found that work? We'd love to hear from you!

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