I am a 30 year old mother of 6. My children range in age from 12 down to 8 months old, including 3 boys and 3 girls. For these reasons, I would consider myself a veteran of mealtime madness management. There are several tips that I use on a daily basis that help keep mealtime from becoming argument time. Tips including the way we cook our meals, how to divide up chores to include as many as possible in the process, and the importance of sitting at a dinner table for meals.
First and foremost, when you have multiple children it is just not feasible to make separate meals for each child’s particular taste. Not only would it cost six times the money at the grocery store, but who has time to make 4, 5, or 6 separate meals everyday? I certainly don’t and I am a stay at home mother. The most important rule to establish is that “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. Basically telling the children that you would never feed them something bad for them. The second rule to establish is “the no thank you bite” for new foods or certain veggies that some children don’t care as much for. This rule means that even if you think you don’t like it, you have to take a small helping and have at least one bite of that item. I find this to be one of the best ways to eventually get children to eat most things.
While the actual preparation of the food may not require the help of smaller children especially, those children can be involved in other parts of the mealtime process. Bring the baby into the kitchen in their walker or highchair and talk about the foods you are preparing. Let the preschooler and kindergartner set the cups and silverware at the table, while the older children can set plates, get condiments and milk out, and any other extra tasks that need completed during the dinner process. By making the whole process of cooking, setting the table, and cleaning up afterward a family affair, children are less likely to complain about the food they are eating and the “work” of cleaning up afterward.
Finally, most children are more likely to talk with their mouths full, right? Well by sitting at the dinner table without the television, ipods, or computers on we can encourage communication within the family. This is especially important when dealing with a large family because some can easily feel lost in the mix.