By Jenny Atkins
Do your kids set the table for dinner? Recently, I’ve been having my girls help out with getting the table ready and it’s made a huge difference in their readiness to sit down and eat their meal. Preparing the food, the menu or the table prepares them mentally for eating. This is definitely not a new concept, it’s just something I hadn’t thought much about. I tend to wait to the last minute to make them sit down in hopes that they can run out any last bouts of energy before bed. But in actuality, I think I’m working against myself.
Think about when you prepare for anything…a test, an interview, a race or even bed, we typically have a routine that we follow. We study for a test, we wear the right clothes for an interview, we eat right and sleep well before a big race and take a warm shower and a book before bed. So why don’t we prepare our children and even ourselves for that matter to eat?
In our busy fast-food world with delivery and prepackaged food, we skip the important process of making our meal and mentally preparing for it. We don’t touch and feel the veggies while washing and cutting them up, we don’t smell the food cooking and we don’t wait and prepare for it to be served. We get everything with instant gratification. Our mouths don’t even have time to prepare the saliva to properly breakdown the food. If we want to prepare properly for a healthy meal, we need to slow down, take the right steps and involve our children.
I realized a few days ago, that my evenings consist of scrambling to make dinner while my children play outside running around like crazy hooligans, then as soon as dinner is done screaming for them to come eat…as if anyone is ready to sit down for a meal after running a marathon. So after about 20 more minutes of screaming and bribing and threatening to throw their dinner in the garbage, they sit down and reluctantly eat.
It was time for a change because this was not working nor was it healthy. I do like having them help with the preparation of dinner, but realistically this is not possible every night. I needed to come up with a routine that was helpful, healthy and not too terrible for the kids to want to do.
Having them take part in the table set up has been awesome. It gets their mind ready for dinner and slows them down a bit so they are ready to eat. I’ve made a drawer with placemats, assorted napkins and water cups that they can easily reach. Surprisingly they do a pretty good job. Sometimes we get 3 or 4 forks each, but that’s ok. Now when dinner is ready they seem to be more in the mindset to eat and happy to sit down at the set up they have created, we even got a flower on the table last night.