A couple of weeks ago I was texting a friend (my nutritionist friend) complaining that the kids were back to rarely eating dinner.
We all know the story right? You cook a nutritious dinner for the kids. Something you think is pretty tasty.
You’ve snuck in some veggies, it looks appealing.
In your mind, you’ve done all the right things and this is going to be the night they eat it.
You put it in front of the kids and hold your breath.
‘I don’t like it,’ says one pushing the plate away after one mouthful.
The other one won’t even try it.
It’s so painful, isn’t it?
I don’t have the magic cure but I can tell 9 tips to get kids to eat dinner at least most of the time.
My friend reminded me of something I already know… keep it simple.
That’s my number one tip for how to get kids to eat dinner – keep it simple (I’ll tell you how soon).
9 TIPS TO GET KIDS TO EAT DINNER
1 Eat as a family
Because of the hours my husband works and the fact that in summer here it’s still super light and hot in the late arvo (and I don’t like eating dinner then), we’ve never really eaten as a family.
Now it’s winter and it’s dark by about 5.45 and the kids are a little older so can eat a little later, we all eat dinner together at 6pm.
2 Keep food simple
It’s really like anything in life, the more we complicate it, the less effective it is. It’s the same with dinner and kids. Don’t try and make it harder than it has to be.
There is nothing wrong with good old meat and three vege some nights. In fact, that’s exactly what we have usually at least 2 nights a week. One night it might be roast chicken and veggies. Another night it’s sausages and mash and some veggies.
Keeping it simple means it’s not too overwhelming for the kids, it’s easier for you to prepare and it makes great leftovers for lunches.
3 Always offer one similar thing
Kids like consistency so offering one familiar, common thing at every meal makes them feel ‘safe.’ Also, it can take 10 tries of something for a child to actually decide the like it.
For us, it’s nearly always some carrots. Every night, I cook some carrot sticks, coat them in butter and put them in a little bowl on the table. It has taken a while but now, every night, they eat a couple.
My little one even proclaimed the other night that he loves broccoli (which again, I just kept offering until he tried it).
4 Let the kids decide on dinner some nights
I let the kids choose their favourite dinner about once a week. Letting them feel in control of what they eat makes them much more likely to eat it.
5 Get them to set the table
Again, getting the kids involved and giving them some responsibility makes them feel like they have some control over dinner time.
6 Get them involved in the prep
What can they do to help you prepare the dinner in the kitchen? Can they peel the string off the beans, husk the corn, peel the carrots, even just popping things into the slow cooker… kids love feeling like they’re helping.
It’s also an opportunity to talk about what’s so good about each food. Talk about how the carrots will help them see in the dark like a rabbit, the broccoli will help them get big strong muscles (for more information on kids nutrition check out my EBOOK CRAWLER CUISINE TO TODDLER TUCKER).
Nothing made me more proud than when my son told me the other night he didn’t need his nightlight because he’d been eating his carrots and could see in the dark!
7 Keep calm
I know dinner time can be super stressful but keeping your calm is so important. We want kids to relate food to good times, not to times of stress. Play some relaxing music, ask them about the best thing that happened to them that day – it doesn’t matter what it is, just keep it calm and happy.
8 Let them ‘steal’ from your plate
I’m not sure if this is an actual trick but I will always serve myself a little of everything and make a bit of a big deal about how delicious each thing is. ‘Oh my goodness, these carrots are so sweet’ … I’m sure you can picture it. More often than not it leads to at least one child ‘stealing’ something off my plate to try.
9 Serve it family-style
Again this comes down to kids feeling responsible and in control of a situation. I serve the food in the middle and let the kids serve themselves (with a little help).
So there you have it – 9 tips to get kids to eat dinner. You most definitely don’t have to try everything but give one or two ago and see what a difference it makes.