Why is it that so many issues in parenting revolve around food? Maybe it's because we typically eat three times a day and for littles you generally throw in a couple light snacks. Yesterday I shared the big "Picky Eater Cure-All", but today I want to address other areas where food is involved and stress can be triggered for all involved. :)
Let's start with Littles. Moms of littles know that meal time can be challenging. Usually the tension begins during preparation time. During our years of raising wee-ones, we often lived in very small places. Little ones didn't really have anywhere to go during meal prep except under your feet! :) I would usually place youngest in the high chair so he could see what I was doing. That solved a lot right there! I'd hand over extra measuring cups, spoons, etc. for him to play with while I cooked. In addition, there would most generally be bits and pieces of what I was cooking that would land on his tray. :) Pieces of chopped carrot, half a banana, apple slices, small bits of cheese, avocado pieces, handful of frozen peas or rinsed black beans .... all of these choices serve as a GREAT little "snack" for your observer. I hear so much talk about "don't give your kids too many snacks, it will ruin their dinner". Well, I suppose that's true if you're only handing out bagged potato chips and chocolate chip cookies! :) But if you offer your young child something healthy think of it as the best appetizer on the block! You just gave them a jump-start in a nutritious meal, kept them safe & snug in their high chair and thinned out a bit of the commotion while you round up dinner for the rest of the crew! Keeping junior safe up in the high chair also allows for your other kids to get involved in the kitchen helping out with no one dropping a knife on Jr's head when they are learning to slice carrots for the family! :)
What about restaurants? For our family, going to a restaurant is a BIG deal. During the years hubby was in Bible college our oldest three were all very young. Getting to eat out was a HUGE treat. (and yes, I'm talking even McD's - big deal it was!) For us, our time out was a whole lot more about enjoying a tremendous blessing than it was making sure everyone ate their veggie quota. Our kids were getting lots of nutritious meals at home and knew very well that what was being served (at home) was what was going to be entering their tummies! ... whether that meant it took one, two, or three meals to accomplish it. :) Trust me, one of our children tried! For our family, going out to a restaurant meant you got to choose what you wanted to order. Isn't that what a restaurant is for? NOT Mommy's kitchen. :) We would determine ahead of time what the choices would be (sometimes splitting a regular meal two ways for young kids was cheaper than two over-priced kids meals that didn't contain enough food to fill up our growing boys!) It was fun to watch the anticipation as they went over their options and made their selection and got to request their meal from the waiter. I realize that was lots of "theirs" in that sentence. But truly, that was a BIG deal! Mom didn't run a 24/7 restaurant at home. It was a big treat to choose their fave food, just as it should be.
What about snack time? We have to remember as moms that our little ones have LITTLE tummies. This means they are going to need to eat more often than we do. That doesn't mean they need to fill up on junk in-between meals. For our K and under crowd we have a mid-morning snack and a small after nap snack. Mid-morning snack consists generally of a piece of fruit or a handful of baby carrots. For the smaller ones we split a large piece of fruit. This is a great time for your kids to pick a fave. You might notice some of your kids are more veggie or more fruit eaters. Guess what?, both are healthy! This is a great time to get to pick one. :) NOT during the bigger meal times when mom (or other sibling) has worked hard at preparing a meal for the whole family. My one daughter sometimes won't wake up until really close to supper time. She still gets her "snack". I have no fear it's going to "ruin" her supper. A piece of fruit or some carrot sticks are actually just a jump start for her on that meal. :) I encourage moms to not look at snacks as being a "bad" thing. Truly they aren't if you're not just serving up junk.
What to drink? We started long ago serving water at our meals, except for breakfast. I truly believe this was one of the major keys in our kids being good eaters. They weren't filling up on sugary juices or kool-aid or whatever else was served, so they had plenty of room for some good food. Now if we're having pizza with friends or a special company night, we will often serve a different beverage. Our kids know they get one glass (and they are small) and after that it's water. Obviously my teen guys bump up to adult sizes/portions of everything. ;) I'm mostly talking to moms of littles here. For breakfast our kids would drink milk or juice, depending on what is being served. Now obviously moms of babies this would look differently. I can't tell you how many children I have seen stick up their noses to the thought of drinking WATER. I blows my mind! Our bodies NEED water! Shocking bit of reality here folks, children are dying all over the country because of a LACK of good, clean water. We really should wake up. I should probably add here, that's also what our kids drink between meals. Simple. Water. :) Our children are typically always ready for meal time, because they aren't filled up on only junk in-between.
I was out with my husband and littles the other night doing some errands. The older boys were at a 4H meeting. I received a text from oldest saying ... "could we have some ice cream"? I wrote back ... "sure". Next text ... "okay, thanks!". I paused for a moment and realized, they really "get it"! They understand that food is something to be appreciated. EXTRAS like ice cream and fun desserts and the occasional junk food set out when friends come over .... those don't just all fall from the sky! Someone works very hard to help provide for those. I think many times we're doing our kids a HUGE dis-service in the area of food.
Now that my first batch of "littles" have grown up and are all teenagers they've moved up in the ranks a bit. There are times after the little ones go to bed that we hang out with our teens and enjoy some ice cream. Let's face it, it's cheaper than going out to the big DQ! We can't afford to treat our kids often to over-priced ice cream joints, but we CAN bless them at home at times and when it doesn't happen every day it truly is a blessing. I've been known once in awhile to "accidentally" not put mushrooms one one section of pizza for one son in particular. This is my son who learned that eating vegetable beef soup was MUCH more tasty for supper than for breakfast! We all have favorites. God made each of us unique. But we've taken that WAY too extreme in our selfish, over-indulgence culture!!!!! We need to raise our children up knowing how to be grateful for what is provided.