Dinnertime is usually an elegant, relaxing affair at my home. Candlelight, real china dishes, several courses of fine French fare, and stimulating, joyous conversation from the whole family.
Oh wait, no — that was a scene from a Merchant Ivory film.
Dinner at my toddler-run household can involve anything from sweet potato gnocchi and frozen chicken nuggets to pointing out different objects and naming them to tears and crying and The Little Mermaid on TV.
I am always down for a few tips to help dinnertime run more smoothly (my latest hit — giving my son two forks so he can stab his food with true pirate gusto), so here are some from real moms and dads. Screen time, burgers, veggies, and creative plating all came up. Also, there's no shame in making dinner a game — whatever you have to do.
Jenny: "When I'm prepping, I need them to be watching a movie so I can chop and measure everything. But when the food is cooking, I get them involved with stirring and tasting."
Martha: "My daughter told me I was 'the best' when I arranged her and her brother's food to look like a face on their plates. They are amused, stay in their seats, and actually eat it."
Victoria: "Endless episodes of Elmo while eating seems to be the only thing that works for my kid!"
Belinda: "My kids eat much better at breakfast and lunch so I try not to make dinner a big deal. And when I'm desperate, I'll make breakfast for dinner."
Molly: "Eating as a family (when possible) seems to always have my son eating more."
Jenny: "Mini burgers on Triscuits."
Deborah: "Surprise plates. My husband makes faces or pictures out of our daughter's food and surprises her with the meal."
Rebecca: "My son cracks eggs, washes produce, flips pancakes, and stirs. He's been my helper since he was 2 and now that he's 5 he says he can't wait until he's a grown-up so he can use the big knives!"
Cheryl: "I hold a contest to see who can make the spoon cleaner faster and who makes the better picture on the plate with colorful fruit."
Jenn: "I'm really big on serving up bento-style dinners that contain some of her tried-and-true favorite foods along with new foods. I feel like the variety really helps my kiddo branch out from her stubborn ways."
Katie: "Undercover veggies. Take something you know they already like and find a way to incorporate puréed veggies, like 'oh nothing unusual to see here.' Cheese pizza with puréed onion, garlic, and zucchini in the tomato sauce."
Bryan: "A glass of wine (or three) with dinner."
How do you make dinner more fun for your kids?