Is a stress-free dinner time possible?

I remember being so pleased that my eldest son seemed to be happy to pretty much eat anything.

We’d go out for dinner and he’d either have something from our plate or the kid’s option.

And then something happened!

It felt like overnight he became distrustful of the food I put in front of him.

“I don’t like it!” He’d say, before even trying it!

“What is that green thing?” He’d question, pointing at the tiniest flake of oregano.

Dinner times became stressful.

But I really didn’t want them to be.

I wanted him to enjoy meal times with us all together.

It’s hard though, when you’ve spent ages making a meal – that you know tastes nice, to be met with “I don’t like it!”.

So instead of arguing and getting stressed and upset, I tried out some different techniques.

These are the ones that worked for us.


Food Cards

We talked about the different foods he liked and I got out the colouring pencils.

Making the cards together and talking about foods we both liked was nice.

We don’t use these for every meal, but if I sense that he’s in a particularly tricky mood, we talk about what he’d like and he chooses from the cards.

One rule though is that a vegetable has to be included and what he chooses, he needs to eat!


Portion Sizes & Fun Food

When meal times are becoming difficult, I found it was better to lower my expectations and get creative!

So I’d make sure the portion sizes weren’t too big and that there was left over food available if he ate his meal up.

I’d also try and make the meal look fun or interesting.

It made him happy to finish a meal without me nagging!


Food Swaps

This was a spur of the minute creation.

Lunch was on the table and he’d happily eaten the sandwich but was lagging with the tomatoes and cucumber.

I grabbed some shiny card in the right colours and put 4 ‘tomatoes’ and 4 ‘cucumber slices’ on the table.

When he ate one from his plate he could swap it with a card one on the table.


He loved it!

We have these to hand when needed now.



Top Trumps

Twenty Questions

The TV Game (guessing TV characters)

Eye Spy

Happily Families

These are a few of the games we often play during meal times.

The rule is that we can play as long as dinner is being eaten.

It has worked really well for us as it often diffuses any niggles about the dinner in front of him!

Hidden Veg

You may not be struggling with getting your child to eat their dinner, but instead struggling with getting them to eat vegetables.

I bought the River Cottage Baby and Toddler recipe book when my eldest was a baby. He’s now 4 and we still use it a lot (especially now that his younger brother is weaning!). The roasted veg sauce recipe is a lovely, easy way to get some veg in to their meal if they are partial to pasta!

We also tried out the new Little Dish pizzas recently where the pizza base has purreed veg in it. These went down really well.

In trying to make my own version of the pizzas, I came unstuck with adding it to the dough.

But I had great success with pureeing carrot and adding it to the tomato sauce base.

It made a lovely sweet sauce for the pizza and I’ll do this every time now!

* * *

Dinner times aren’t perfect in our house, but they are a lot happier!

How do you tackle this mine field?!


One thought on “Is a stress-free dinner time possible?

  1. Some great ideas here. Mmmm how do we currently tackle mealtimes? A fair bit of shouting with my 3 year old wondering off mid meal only to eat the lit just before bedtime. I’m going to print this out to remind me of new tactics!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s