Get Rid Of The Kids Table and Ditch Exclusive Mealtimes. Agree?!

Indian family with dining table - parenting resource by ZenParent

Eating together as a family is more important today than in the past because there are more competing distractions, more choices of activities outside the home, and a constant bombardment of information from modern technology. During the day most of us are out in the community mixing with all kinds of people. Our children are learning about the world from many sources, often without parental filters or input. Even when everyone is home, individuals do their own thing. Perhaps the only opportunity of the day to talk with each other is at the dining table.

Children in today’s busy world need a shared, safe space to discuss ideas within the understanding company of family, and parents need a routine time to connect with kids.

The Way It Was While I Was Growing Up

I would like to share what family meals (especially dinners) meant to me while growing up. When I was growing up in my hometown, I could always count on meeting my parents and sister at the old teak dinner table. All of us sat down together and shared about our how our day went. We all helped set the table, (cooking was never my forte at that time!!!) and enjoyed hearing about how each one’s day went. After a busy day our evening meal was a chance to gather our little tribe around the table and reconnect with each other. This pleasant time seemed like a reward for the day’s hard work. Dining was about “us”, rather than the “I” so many families have evolved to cater to. There wasn’t a separate menu for each person. Everyone got their favorite dishes on different days and learnt to like what the other liked too!

 parents and children sit together at dining table - parenting resource by ZenPrent     Image Source

 Conversation was spontaneous and unpredictable. Discussion between bites was fun, and often interspersed with fits of giggling with my sister.

Why We Don’t Eat Together As Much Today

Eating together as a family nowadays has become challenging! Between busy schedules, cranky kids, and exhausted families, flipping on the TV or feeding the kids before sitting down as a couple is often easier than establishing a regular time of eating together as a family. This holds true in the case of our family too. But we are gradually making a positive change and working towards making it a more sustainable arrangement.

A Special Chair For The Child And Separate Mealtimes. Good Or Bad?!

I know the big high chairs can be cumbersome in kitchens/small dining areas and the trays are annoying to keep cleaning but these seats and their ability to keep your child safe are the best bet for a while. Babies have learned to associate eating with this chair and toddlers are notoriously distracted.  If you try to have them eat at the big table before the age of 2.5 you are most likely going to be in a constant struggle just to keep them sitting at the table and their eating habits could probably suffer. There is nothing wrong with keeping your kid in a high chair or booster seat with a strap until they are 3 or till when the child is ready to move. But when the time is right, you must gradually make a shift to the adult table so they would begin to know how family mealtimes actually work. Once you do move to a strap-free eating situation, lay the ground rules quickly about staying seated.

seats for children at mealtime - Parenting source by ZenParent

 Image Source

My daughter turns 3 this month, I still use the high chair extensively. But I have let go of exclusive meal times for her. She eats with the family. And it’s working extremely well. The bonding is so strong. Here is how this whole exercise is benefiting my daughter and the family as a whole:

  •  Eating together is more efficient, less expensive and healthier.
  • I am confident that my child is beginning to understand the concept of food sustainability.
  • It is contributing largely to building a closer relationship within the family.

How We Have Brought This Change In Our Home?

Now let’s be honest, it is extremely difficult to make the above work on a regular basis. What can families do that takes only about an hour a day and packs such a punch?

Researchers find that families who eat dinner together at the family table five nights a week reap great benefits, but there is no magic number, nor is dinner inherently preferable to other meals.

Our family finds breakfast and dinner (on some days) on a regular weekday or weekend lunches easier meals for a gathering. Our goal is meals together at least thrice a week. And it’s working extremely well.

How do you get your child excited about giving up the high chair and being a part of the adults table?

Most children like to help and should be encouraged to do so. The trick is figuring out which tasks are developmentally right for your child.

Being a part of these tasks helps a great deal to be a part of a family meal. You could also try involving them in some fun games.

Younger kids (ages 2-7) love guessing games. Here are a few games we enjoy playing with our little girl:

  •  Playing a round of “I-Spy” is great fun, giving each of us an opportunity to “spy” something on the dinner table, while the rest of us guess what it is.
  •  Another popular game our 3 year old thoroughly enjoys is “Can You Remember?” This is how it works – Have them close their eyes, and ask them if they can remember what their surroundings looked like (For example; “How many dishes are on the table?”).

Some other food- oriented games that are exciting for older children are:

  •  Ask your children to “guess the ingredients in your meals.” To make this game even more engaging, you could add a “secret” ingredient to the meal, like vanilla or paprika. This is a fun way to get kids thinking about food and how it’s prepared.
  •  Another fun idea is to “make a restaurant out of your meal.” Turn your kitchen over to the kids and ask them to make dinner for you.

These are sure to help your child understand that giving up the kiddie table and eating together with the family was not such a bad idea after all!

Here are a few easy dishes that your precious little ones can help you prepare:

Baked Apple Gingerbread Pancake

Baked apple pancakes for kids - easy recipes for kids  at home - by zenparent

 Image Source

A perfect dish to serve your whole family in this beautiful cool weather. A dish that includes both pancakes and gingerbread in one!! It’s a great dish for making together

Procedure

  • Preheat oven to 400°Fahrenheit. Lightly butter a non-stick ovenproof skillet or baking tray (glass or anything available)
  • Peel 1 medium apple, quarter and chop into chunks. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons of cane sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Pour apples into the pan and spread them around the bottom. Place pan in preheated oven and set timer for five minutes. Meanwhile, make your batter.
  • In a blender, combine 2 tablespoons cane sugar, 3 large eggs, 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons molasses/jaggery, 3/4 cup all purpose flour or whole wheat flour, enough salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder (optional). Blend for about one minute until smooth.
  • Open the oven and carefully slide the rack out partially until the pan of baking apples are accessible. Pour the batter from the blender into the pan, slide the rack back in and close the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes until puffed and golden. (oven times may vary)

To Serve: Slide pancake onto a large cutting board. Dust with powdered sugar, slice into wedges and serve.

Pop Up Muffins

 pop up muffins for kids at home - easy made recipes for kids - by ZenPrent

 Image Source

This was such a fun and easy breakfast to make for my family. These Pop Up Muffins, as are so great for a busy morning when you don’t have time for something more labor intensive, or maybe don’t have a lot of groceries on hand.

Procedure

  •  Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 6 eggs, 1/4 cup melted butter, a dash of salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon orange zest in a blender. Grease muffin tins and distribute batter evenly. Bake for 15 minutes, or until puffy and golden on top.
  • Serve these topped with maple syrup/honey and slice strawberries or bananas or apples or any fresh fruit with a little sprinkle of powdered sugar. You can even throw in some nuts and dried fruit.

5 Minute Mac And Cheese

  cheese macaroni for kids at home - easy made recipies by zenparent

Image Source

This is too easy to not try for yourself and your family. Delicious for a weeknight or weekend dinner or even lunch maybe!

Procedure

Place 1/2 pound cooked pasta (any pasta of your choice), 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 1 cup milk, enough salt and pepper into a microwave safe bowl. Stir to mix. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave for an additional 2 minutes. Stir until creamy and smooth. Serve immediately.

Featured Image Source

loader