When I’m out and about I often wonder about how other families do their ‘familying”, what their special rituals are, what they share and how they prioritise their time together. I know families who connect through sport, others through events or travel, and some who just like to grab a takeaway and find a spot to sit together. For our family, I feel most connected when we are sitting around the table, or preparing a meal in our kitchen, so I thought I’d invite you over for a virtual meal with us!
My children (nearly 2, & 3 1/2) are by no means adventurous with food, and we have certainly had food struggles, including the “only white food phase” and “only pasta month”. I hope this demonstrates that we are just like every other family at some point or another. My son also has Sensory Processing Sensitivities (SPD), specifically oral sensitivities, so I have take this into account when planning meals. I am incredibly glad we never forced him to eat anything he didn’t want to before we became aware of his diagnosis.
Let’s start with WHERE? Breakfast, lunch and dinner are eaten at our dining table (unless we are out for a meal or sharing a picnic outside). We try to avoid eating on couches but sometimes snacks make it through the gap. When we are at the table, Hamish and I put our phones aside and the kids don’t have toys with them. The TV is off. This encourages conversation. Connection.
WHO? We all eat dinner together at 5pm where possible. I don’t make separate meals for the kids and the adults. I know this might not work for everyone but at the moment it works for us. We think this demonstrates healthy choices and manners as they see us doing what we would like to see from them.
I also try and get the children to help when I am cooking. Not every day, but often. I try and do fun things with chocolate chips to get their buy-in, but they’re often helping with the prep work too, like chopping up vegetables. I ask them to help with the day-to-day stuff too, so they’ll get involved swishing water in the sink “doing dishes”, or wiping the table.
WHAT? The food is usually served in bowls in the middle of the table and the children can choose what they do/don’t want to eat, and what they want to go on their plates. I try my best not to take it personally if they don’t want to even try something I’ve put effort into cooking, as I know this usually adds fuel to the fire.
By giving options (lamb shanks, pasta, green veggie sides) there will usually be at least one thing that each child will eat, and we don’t sweat the small stuff. If one child just wants a plate of broccoli and the other a plate of pasta then it won’t be the same tomorrow. I stand by the mentality that I would rather they eat happily, in a comforting setting, than be forced to eat food that doesn’t appeal.
If they don’t want anything on offer, the only option is toast. No negotiations. They both like toast and we always have it in the cupboard; once my son went for about 2 weeks eating toast every night. But I can’t remember the last time I made any, even though it still comes up in conversation a couple of times a week.
We eat a variety of foods and don’t make everything “child friendly”. We eat curry, sushi and whole fish, and the children aren’t expected to eat everything, but it is offered to them. They both love sushi, even if they don’t eat the seaweed that wraps it together! They often ask to try what we eat, “Absolutely!” and surprisingly my youngest will ask for sweet chilli sauce on occasion! I believe that if kids are presented food choices often enough then ONE day they will get the courage to try it.
Just in case this is starting to sound too squeaky clean, Friday nights are the kid’s favourite because it is JELLY NIGHT! Cheap and nasty but it is a delight watching those faces enjoy it.
WHY? We might seem lenient to some of you reading this, but with so many eating disorders, diets and pressure on our appearance I want our table to be a positive place of connection rather than a battleground. Sometimes this is the first time everyone is really talking to each other for the day, not just snippets of perfunctory conversation whilst getting from A to B.
I love cooking. And I love eating. I also love talking! So what better place than the dining table to connect all my loves.
I’d love to hear how your family eat, feel free to email or Instagram message me through the details below.