Parents often tell me that work, over-commitments and family activities keep them from having consistent meals together as a family. They explain that when schedules get tight, dinner at the table gets dropped because it’s too stressful to manage on top of everything else. I have some suggestions for easing mealtime anxiety by establishing routines, planning and serving meals, and changing our feeding focus to be proactive. Let’s explore 4 tips for making a stress-free mealtime!
ezpz Routines: Having a mealtime routine can decrease the stress of mealtime for both kids and parents. I utilize pre-feeding rituals in feeding therapy, and I teach the families I work with to carryover this practice at home. Something simple like having the toddler/kid go to the bathroom, wash their hands and put on lotion before meals can be calming to a child’s sensory system, which makes them more willing to eat when they get to the table. Every child is different and some of my clients have to jump on a trampoline, listen to music, take a walk or have some quiet reading time before they are ready to focus on eating. Incorporating daily pre-feeding habits will help get their wiggles out and prepare them for sitting and learning to enjoy new foods. In addition, these rituals may give you a few more minutes to get the meal on the table so you can sit down with your children and enjoy it too!
ezpz Planning: When I first started meal planning I was overwhelmed by scheduling meals in advance, as it oftentimes entailed doubling recipes, finding freezer friendly glassware, searching for meals on Pinterest and making room in my freezer to store these extra meals! Now I teach parents easier meal planning; simply cook a little extra of your family’s favorite recipes and throw it in a zip bag. Mark the bag with its contents and put this extra portion into the freezer. Once you have eaten the food, wash the bag and store the marked bags with your recipe books. This technique helps meal planning for the next month, as you can look back at the bags to remind you what meals worked and what to make again.
ezpz Serving: Remove your frozen meal and place the food in child friendly plates that are oven and microwave safe, like the Happy Mat. This makes the prep, heating and serving of your food super quick, plus it generates less dishes! Remember, the Happy Mat is dishwasher safe too, making cleanup stress-free!
ezpz Focus: An important aspect of mealtime is shifting your focus on how much your picky eater is eating (or not eating) to something else. Focus on what you CAN change to make meals less stressful. Some focus questions to ask yourself are: How can I gently introduce a new fruit or veggie to my child today? Is it time to ditch the highchair tray and have baby at the table? How can I help my child be less distracted at mealtime? Am I offering the right portion sizes for my baby or toddler or am I giving too much?
I hope these tips help you make mealtime less about and more about family time! What are some of your tips for a stress-free mealtime? How would making mealtimes stress-free change the way you view feeding your child? Let us know and use #ezpzfun #stressfree #mealtime
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).