No More Dirty Dishes: A Parent's Guide On How To Get Kids Involved At Mealtimes
It is a hard truth that in order to get your kids involved at mealtimes, you must be willing to let them help.
It's not about the dishes themselves; it's about teaching them how to do something for themselves and helping them develop skills that will last a lifetime.
So here are some tips for dealing with the daily struggles of getting your kids to help out at mealtimes:
1. Offer your kids a choice of tasks they can do around mealtime
The list of things to do whilst you're preparing a family can sometimes seem a mile long, however, there will be certain things on that list that even your youngest child could be a part of.
Offering your kids a choice of tasks gives them some control over their new found responsibility and will prove to be more successful than simply demanding that they get involved.
It is important to offer choices, but ultimately you are the one who decides what ultimately needs to get done.
Take things step-by-step when teaching your children how to perform certain tasks around mealtime
Setting up an environment where you take things step-by-step will help the learning process become less daunting for your child; it can make them feel like they actually know what they're doing, rather than making them feel like they don't understand at all.
2. Get them involved in the cooking process
Having your kids help with the cooking process is not only loads of fun for them, but will ultimately make them less winded about food choices around mealtime.
Children who are given a choice to cook their own personalised breakfast in the morning, for example, will be more willing to try it; knowing that they had a hand in its preparation.
5. Get creative with the mealtime prep
Encourage healthy eating habits by getting your kids involved even before meal prepping starts: Let them help with the food shopping, allowing them to pick out produce at the supermarket or having a say in what's being made for dinner that day (instead of "whatever").
7. Limit their choices, but encourage them to get involved
If you have a picky eater, choose dishes that do not require much seasoning or saucing. You can always add extra ingredients later if needed. For example, ask your child if she wants to peel carrots for dinner and get her started on this task before you need her to set the table or cut up other vegetables..
8. Go back in time.. pre-television era
Children's factory wooden toys from days gone by could be used over and over again and they kept children active and entertained for hours! Today, children are accustomed to passive entertainment that doesn't require much input from their end. You can always buy your child a rubber or plastic knife to use while she helps with meal preparation (just make sure it's age appropriate).
9. Make eating fun
There is nothing like setting the table for a mealtime celebration. Use colorful dishes, balloons at each seat, special napkins, and serve food in interesting ways- cones made out of tinfoil are great for dipping sauces or vegetables. Just remember not to let it get out of hand.. you don't want your child expecting every mealtime to be so flashy!
10. Get them involved
If you have an older child who understands the concept of family meals, you can ask for their help with feeding the little ones. You never know, they may even enjoy helping out in the kitchen when they're a teenager...
11. Make it interesting
Have a study buddy in the house?
Why not let your child set up a mini-science experiment while you get ready: Measuring and observing how food changes depending on what cooking methods are used works really well!
And don't be afraid to ask if your child needs any special ingredients - most children love asking for weird things like anchovies or wasabi... Just make sure that whatever goes into their mouth is safe and healthy!
After all, we've all heard stories about people who refuse to eat veggies until they move out of their parents' house and go to college.
Who knows, this could be that one thing that turns your child a lifelong foodie?
12. Try not to make a big deal out of it
If you clearly show that you are annoyed, your child is more likely to whine until they get their way or become distracted by something else. If all goes well, then your child will eat better and learn the skills needed for cooking later on in life!
It is important to let go of perfectionism at mealtimes - when we get stressed out over our children's lack of willingness to help out during meal prep then this can actually cause more issues.
For example, your child is more likely to refuse that healthy salad if you are frowning every time they don't eat all their vegetables!
13. One step at a time
Very young children should be given an opportunity to help with anything they feel comfortable doing.
This might include handing you ingredients, stirring food on the stovetop, or arranging plates on the table.. just keep in mind that this won't happen overnight! And even if it doesn't come naturally right away, always try to stay positive and supportive- there's no reason why mealtime can
... So, who is responsible for cleaning up after a meal?
Well, that depends entirely on the individual family...
Some parents let their kids (regardless of age) help clean up as part of their daily chores, while others will ask the older children to take care of everything by themselves once everyone has left the table.
In most instances, it works best if everyone pitches in - that way, everyone'll learn how to do it without complaining + if you look at it this way:
Who doesn't love a shiny sink with not a single dirty dish or pan in sight?
Yes, your kids will moan from time to time about having to clean up after dinner but surely that's worth it for them (and you) to feel a sense of accomplishment each time they/you walk into a fresh-smelling, clean and tidy kitchen and ALL of you knowing who was responsible for that?
There are a million different ways to get your child involved at mealtimes.
What most parents want is for their children to enjoy what they eat and be encouraged by the family mealtime ritual, so that they grow up with a healthy and happy relationship with food, eating and mealtimes.
It's important not only to know how this can be done but also why it matters in order for children to understand why these steps will help improve their eating habits now and into adulthood.
The most effective way of achieving this goal is through a combination of patience, creativity, modeling good behavior with food choices yourself as well as allowing them to get involved in all the things surrounding family mealtimes.