Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mealtime Battles

After every preschool session, the kids have a chance to play for a while, and then we have lunch. Norah has been staying to eat with us, and then a little more play time before I read her a book and send her home (well, now she gets to call her Mom on the phone before going home). Since I am feeding four children, one of whom with food allergies who usually has to have a separate meal fixed just for her, I can't take special orders from the other kids. Here's how we handle lots of kids at lunch time:
  • Everyone gets half of the main dish (sandwich, pizza...) on their plate, a serving of vegetables, and a cup of milk.
  • Everyone must eat everything on their plate before being excused. If I know in advance that they don't like something that is being served (i.e. Lucy doesn't like lettuce, Norah doesn't like peas) then I give them a very small serving, but they still need to eat it.
  • Once they have finished everything on their plate, they may either be excused (in that case, they must finish their milk as well) or eat the other half of their main dish, which is kept on a large cutting board placed in the middle of the table. It is easy for them to reach when they are ready.
  • They never have to finish the second half...they may choose to be done at any time.
We have been using this method at lunchtime for at least a year now. It is simple, and routine, and solves all sorts of eating issues. A couple adaptations are as follows:
  • Norah told me she didn't like jelly on her sandwich the first time I made pb&js. It took a while to figure out a solution to this, but we did. I put jelly on one-quarter of her sandwich, and this goes on her plate (instead of the usual half). The other three-quarters go on the cutting board, without jelly. After a couple days to get used to the system, she will now happily eat the jellied sandwich quarter. She even told me that now she likes jelly! (Though she wasn't begging for it to be on the other quarters).
  • Both Lucy and Norah have trouble finishing all their milk. Lucy sometimes tells me that so much milk will make her have to go potty...(yes, but...) So now I put a butterscotch chip (we're out of chocolate chips) next to their cups, and if I don't have to remind them to drink all their milk, they can eat the chip when they finish it. They very quickly caught on, and the cups empty very quickly.
  • I'll sometimes put extra food on the cutting board, and if anyone is still hungry once they have finished ALL of their food, they can have some of the extra food.
Sometimes I use this system for breakfast and dinner, but usually the food we eat at those meals isn't very conducive to being cut in half and put on a cutting board. So it remains a lunchtime routine for now...

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