I don't have many answers for this one—I'd love to hear yours—but it's something I'm trying to make a priority as my child starts to understand the concept of sitting down at the dinner table and sharing a meal with others.
When she was a baby, she ate at a high chair in the kitchen while I prepped dinner for myself and my husband. And eventually, she'll be old enough to eat later, when everyone's home from work. But right now is the in-between time: She sits at the table, with a proper plate and utensils, only it's at 5:30 or 6. We eat at 8 or 8:30. Must she always eat alone?
Here are three things I try to do:
• 1. Sit down at the table with her and have a snack. It's tempting to toss food at a toddler while you're multitasking in the kitchen. And I think it's great for kids to be in the kitchen, observing, helping, tasting. But I try to stop what I'm doing, fix myself a plate of something (usually a few bites of what she's having), and "eat" with her.
• 2. Eat together on the weekends. At least one night of the weekend, we try to meet in the middle. We give her a snack so she's not starving, and then we all eat around 6:30 or 7.
• 3. Let her eat with friends. Family dinners don't have to be just family. I think it's nice to have late afternoon play dates and serve dinner to a few kids at once. They can sit around a table (if you're lucky) and enjoy a communal meal, even if it's not with their parents.
What are your strategies for having a family dinner with little kids? Is it possible? Let us know!