With young children, dinner time is helter skelter. You're feeding kids early, getting them to bed, and then starting dinner for adults. Maybe someone else feeds your child while you rush home from work. Is it possible to sit down as a family if you have toddlers? From our experience, not often. But here are a few ideas on how to start making family dinner a habit.
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!
Related: Intimate Portraits of People Eating at Home: The Dinner in NY Project by Miho Aikawa