'Tis the season of wall-to-wall Slade and Maria Carey, lots of group dining with family and friends, brightly wrapped presents, too much sugar and general sensory overload. So when your kids are expected to sit at the table and ‘behave’….well, let’s just say, it's been known to go south.
To help, here are our 6 top tips for easier festive dining with kids.
The catering can seem endless, so make use of your in-house sous chefs.
1. Let them prep!
If you’re hosting, the catering can seem endless, so make use of your in-house sous chefs! If you prep a little beforehand, putting things in smaller bowls, kids will love tipping ingredients into larger mixing bowls, or helping to give mixtures a stir.
If you want to let them do some chopping, toddlers and younger children can use a picnic knife for cutting up ingredients, while craft scissors can be used to snip up herbs (try putting them in a plastic beaker).
Decorating festive cupcakes or desserts is also a sure-fire winner with kids. To keep things looking relatively pleasing (!), maybe you can pipe the buttercream icing, then let them go to town with the colourful or glittery toppings?
The point is, letting kids be even slightly involved in the prep is often easier than trying to get them to leave you alone. Plus it’s a chance to have fun together and to learn important life skills. But it also means they’re more invested in the result, so they’ll be eager to show off their handiwork and more likely to tuck into the finished articles.
Decorating festive cupcakes or desserts is also a sure-fire winner with kids.
2. Embrace independence
We all like to make our own choices in life. Surprise surprise, kids are no different! A good way to diffuse dinner table battles is by giving them some say over what goes on their plate. Place serving dishes in the centre of the table and encourage them to help themselves: it prompts kids to manage portion control better and helps them get familiar with the sensation of fullness by themselves, rather than being told when they’re done by an adult.
You get more time to enjoy your own meal without having to constantly supervise them. And sure, it’s a little messier, as they find their way, but so worth it in the long run.
Place serving dishes in the centre of the table and encourage them to help themselves.
3. Right-sized cutlery
Are they ready to go up a stage or size in cutlery? Perhaps they've outgrown their baby utensils and are ready for a big kid set with stainless steel. Or maybe you can kiss kid cutlery goodbye entirely and trust them with the same stuff the adults use. Having the right tools for the job, so to speak, can make all the difference to their behaviour. Check out our brilliant range in all sorts of fun styles.
4. Encourage experimentation
An exciting event like Christmas dinner, or a meal in a restaurant with Grandma and Grandpa, is a great opportunity to encourage children to try new flavours, like cranberry, or stuffing (or maybe even brussels sprouts!) You might need to go out of your own comfort zone, if you've got used to offering them 'safe choices'. So be a bit bold on their behalf...and you could all discover something new.
Don’t worry about them getting ‘distracted’ - associating mealtimes with affirmation is extremely good for their relationship with food in the long run.
5. Give them a job
When you say to a kid, “I think you can do this all by yourself,” it gives them a sense of ownership and tells them you trust them, which really boosts their confidence. Why not let them take charge of laying cutlery on the table and maybe they can help pass around the snacks? Or perhaps they could encourage any younger guests to try different foods?
6. Celebrate The Togetherness
Young kids are pretty sociable animals and often the more lively your table is, the more your child will want to eat. Sitting with the grown-ups is more of a treat than you can imagine, so interact with the kids at the table as much as possible and encourage your other guests to do so too.
Don’t worry about them getting distracted from their plate - associating mealtimes with pleasure and affirmation is extremely good for their relationship with food in the long run.
So, we hope these tips help you to enjoy your festive dining to the fullest. (And we mean fullest!) But however you choose to celebrate, the most important thing is to relax and treat yourself - you've definitely earned it!
Header image: Oriol Portell on Unsplash
Festive cupcakes: Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Boy serving himself: Jimmy Dean on Unsplash
Laughing girl: Natali Hordiiuk on Unsplash