Raising Kids is Tough : At the Dinner Table


I announced the Raising Kids is Tough [RKIT] series on the blog and asked for your toughest questions. 

Each Monday for the month of August, I’m going to focus on the battles of eating that every household has at one time or another. Very generously, the hands on experts have given their professional and personal answers to help lessen those battles.

The Hands On Experts:

And, we have a special guest expert, and a wonderful sponsor, Sarah of Fudoo Boards is here for this eating series to give her food expert input on your eating battles.

Your Eating Battles:

  • Week 1: How do you deal with food battles at the dinner table?
  • Week 2 : What tips and advice can you give to make eating out go more smoothly with a preschooler and a baby?
  • Week 3 : My Toddler [almost 2] will not eat any meat he is getting protein at the moment through lentils, cheeses, fish and egg. At each meal we offer meat, minced, sliced, roasted etc… but it is either thrown to the dog, put in his mouth chewed and then spat out or ignored completely. Is this normal behavior? Or any ideas on getting him to eat meat?
  • Week 4 : My youngest refuses to eat cheese or anything with cheese on it or try anything with cheese on it. I think I could deal with this if I knew WHY.  It happened about a year ago and he hasn’t touched anything with cheese since.
  • Week 5: I want to give my son a healthy snack after his nap, but don’t want to turn it into meal. What is a good thing to give him?
[Do you have a question that wasn’t listed? Submit your Raising Kids is Tough questions!]
The experts each chose a couple questions to give their input on, some questions have answers from multiple experts, while others may only have one expert’s advice.

So… here’s Eating Battles, week 1.

How do you deal with food battles
at the dinner table?
asked by Audrey’s Mom

This week’s advice and helpful tips come from three experts:

  • Food Expert: Sarah of Füdoo Boards



This series is sponsored by Füdoo Boards.Fudoo Boards provide an exciting way for even your
preschooler to track their eating habits and instills healthy eating as well as a healthy lifestyle.


Food Expert [Sarah from Füdoo Boards] :
I think every parent has dealt with the issue of food battles at their family s dinner table.  These food issues were actually the main inspiration behind my invention, the füdoo Board. The füdoo Board helps parents make mealtime a learning time. It gets the child involved in the meal, so he is not just being told to eat the food on his plate. By taking the focus off the fight and putting it into the experience of eating together, families can shed a lot of this mealtime frustration. The idea that families [children and their parents] can experience positive reinforcement from a successful meal time is priceless and can make our children s food and eating issues feel that much more under control.It is vital to focus on the positive aspects of family mealtime, instead of expecting a problem filled meal every time you sit down together. If we measure success of a meal by how much our kids eat, we will be let down more often than not. Let s start to measure our meal time successes in a broader way. If mealtime becomes a time your family looks forward to as enjoyable, then the eating and food piece will become more productive for you.

So where can we find these broader positive experiences? Take a look at these tips and keep your chin up. You are trying to do the best for your child every day, meal by meal. Read Creating More Family Time at the Kitchen Table , Making Quality Time a Family Tradition  and trying new foods with children.
Yes, balanced nutrition is absolutely important, but it won ‘t develop very easily with a fight.  Give your child the best foods to choose from and you will win all around. Get the junk food out of the house [or at least out of sight] and model your best eating habits every time you sit down to eat. Refuse to have battles at the kitchen table. The negative talk about the food you have worked hard to put on the table can t be tolerated or your children will go ahead with it. Instead make sure to start a habit of picking out the positive pieces of the meal and roll with it. This will become the new habit.
You can also learn about easy balanced meal planning with children on our website, www.fudooboards.com. Go to füdooland, meal planning.

— Sarah, Fudoo Boards

Mom Expert [Jill from A Mom with a Lesson Plan] :

At our house dinner time is a breeze unless a kid bouncing in their seat bothers you [We don t have the kind of kids who sit still for very long :-P]. As far as food goes we have no battles. That does not mean that our kids LOVE everything we serve, or even that they eat everything we serve. We have no battles because there are no battles to be had. We offer them healthy, delicious food and they are welcome to eat it& or not eat it. 
Kids eat when they are hungry, when their body is growing or they are spending large amounts of energy. [Lots of that going on around here!] That means, even if you serve something that your kid has eaten over and over they may not eat it. They are just not hungry. No need to panic. This is where my Mom s advice rings in my ear. “Kids will not starve.” If they are hungry they will eat the food presented to them. If they are not hungry they won t eat. I love food and I love meal time. It is truly a time to look forward to.
Tips [To eliminate battles at the table]:
  1. Serve only one meal for everyone. If you open yourself up as a short order cook, your kids will know that there is another option if they don t care for dinner.  Options [in this case] = battle.
  2. Serve dessert as an afternoon snack rather than after dinner. That way you will avoid kids being forced to eat things to get a dessert reward . Forced eating = battle.
Questions to ask [To encourage healthy eating habits]:
  • What do you notice about this meal?
  • “Do you see any ingredients that are familiar to you?
  • Are you curious about any foods that you haven t tried before?

Teaching Expert [Deborah from Teach Preschool] :As an early childhood educator, I tend to always think in terms of what I would do in the classroom. Just like any other experience, dinner time should be a time that young children come to value as a time that is not just for eating but also as a time for being together as a family, exploring new foods, talking with each other, and getting involved in the responsibilities of family life.
Too often we tend to put food on the table, set the child in a chair, and say “eat!’  This would not be that different than me putting paper on a table, setting the child in the chair and saying, “draw!”  Instead, I try to make experiences in the classroom inviting and this should be true at the dinner table too.

To make the dinner table inviting, try some of these tips…

  • Have the child participate in helping prepare dinner in some small way – whether it is setting the table, help with cooking, pouring the drinks, asking everyone what they would like to drink, helping to serve food on mommy and daddy’s plate – as well as their own.
  • Make the food interesting, for example – cut the bread with cookie cutters to make shapes like hearts, animals, and so on.   
  • Sit with your child to eat  – no one really likes to sit and eat alone. 
  • Enourage conversation. Both adult to adult conversation as well as child to adult conversation.  Turn off other distractions and focus on the family during dinner time. 
  • Establish a few clear and simple boundaries for dinner time and stick with them. For example: Food must stay on the table; Everyone stays in their chair while we are all eating as a family; Everyone helps clean up and set up.  
  • Notice that the boundaries are not about eating. Eating should be encouraged during the process but eating will often happen when everyone is talking, staying together, and modeling good family dinner practices. If your child won’t eat, then just invite him to talk and participate with the family but a little reminder that dinner time will be over soon and now is the time to get that tummy full might be needed.
— Deborah, Teach Preschool

The hands on experts are truly appreciated for giving their time to answer these questions on hands on : as we grow. I truly appreciate it. Please check out all of their websites. They’re truly amazing people and have a wealth of information to share with everyone.

Thank you very much experts! And thank you to all the readers who have submitted questions! Also, very much appreciated!

Next Monday, the experts are answering one of my questions. How to making going out to eat with the kids go more smoothly and pleasant for everyone. A wealth of information is shared by all four of the experts!

Head over and submit your question – next month’s topic will be all about obnoxious behaviors and how to nix them, or maybe they’re just normal! [All topics are welcome, we’ll get to your question in the future!]

— This series is sponsored by Fudoo Boards.

jamie @ hands on : as we grow
Henry is 3 years.
George is 10 months.
Head on over & check out our sponsors:

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  1. Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree says

    These are great tips! Fortunately I've figured all of this out along the way! It is wonderful to have all this information in one spot! I know a lot of parents who could use this advice!

  2. Angelique Felix says

    Hi to all!Thanks so much for sharing your insights about this battle. It is great to see open and flexibile reflections on a topic that many times can be so worrying for us adults..Great initiative Jamie (you are a star!)

  3. Michelle Breum says

    This is a nice collection of helpful advice. Most parents have at least one picky eater. I'm visiting from We Teach, Weekly Blogger Share. I'm tweeting your helpful post.

  4. Ludicrous Mama says

    I also use a "no thank you bites" rule. She must try 1 bite of any new food(s,) and 1-bite-per-year-of-age of each food on her plate (in our case, 3.) Then she can say "no thank you" to the rest. I will make her Easy-Mac or a PBJ, or she can eat carrots or apples, or whatever instead, after she's tried the 1-3 bites of all the different foods that everyone else is eating. I only make her take 1 taste of new foods, to get her to try it. Usually she ends up liking it, but if not, we've gotten in one of the 12-20 tastes of a new food before she 'likes' it. If she does not choose to eat her no-thank-you bites, we will not allow her another option if she's still hungry, nor will she get dessert. But we make sure to stress that it's her choice, and choosing not to eat (and get dessert) is an acceptable choice.

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