It’s a super busy world! And parenting life just seems to move at a pace governed by to do lists, work commitments, play dates, school bells (my nemesis), drop-offs, pick-ups, house work, activities, naps (or lack of), bedtime routines and of course meal prep. Therefore, if we want to tackle a pervasive issue, like when you want to help picky eaters, I can understand that the task seems too big to conquer when you only have small bursts of time. But it can be done!

In our busy days, its easy to lose track of the time that we do have. There are a few BURSTS OF TIME YOU HAVE each day to be harnessed to do something for YOU. What else could you do whilst waiting at the doctors surgery? Waiting for the school bell to ring? When you get to work early? While you are driving? Before the kids get up in the morning? After the kids go to bed at night? While the kids are doing some “sit beside me quietly” independent play? Or even pushing kids on the swing!?

Here are a few tips and tricks I think will help you make time. And ways use small bursts of time to help your picky eater.

ONE: Listen to podcasts / recorded audio information while you are driving or doing “busy work”

Knowledge is Power – Thomas Jefferson

I enjoy podcasts every now and then to brush up on a new topic or get some inspiration. They help me get “busy work” like folding laundry done easier. Just because my hands are busy, doesn’t mean my time is completely monopolized. After I listened to a podcast all about the psychology of “uncertainty”, it inspired a few blog posts around helping kids that are uncertain about foods. I linked to the original podcast here. Knowing that this is a great mechanism for parents to learn, I have put lots of videos (that are just of my face so you are completely free to listen to the audio only) into the “Goodbye Picky Eating” course that comes with my initial fussy eating consult OR my meal planning parent support program

As a taster: here are 2 audio blogs I’ve recorded for you to listen to and they will help with your picky eater as they are on two of my most frequently asked questions about picky eating:

And here are some podcasts featuring me:

Daditude : What’s For Dinner. A light-hearted podcast where I chat to two comedian dad’s about helping fussy eaters and answer some great family meal questions. 

TWO: Save Time By Making Meals for the Whole Family 

A sure fire way to chew up time is to make a different meal for the children and a different meal for you as well as have multiple sitting times (ie clean-up times). Not every family can have every meal together due to activity and work commitments. However, when you can, make something that you can use for everyone.

For example, my kids and husband eat earlier than me 2 nights a week when I work back late. My husband leaves me some of their dinner for me to reheat when I get home. I may add my own fresh side and they may have had a different side dish too but the cooking (and dish making) effort is not repeated.  Plus this is also why I serve foods in storage containers in the middle of the table – less dishes and less waste!

Children that are picky about their foods will only improve with more exposure and learning about other foods. So by cooking the same thing for everyone, they will still see the family foods alongside some accepted food. This will break down any barrier between “your food” and “my food”.

THREE: Browse Pinterest With Purpose for New Food Ideas

If you feel like you’ve gotten into a meal rut, I always find a quick Pinterest search helps me see a sea of food images that can inspire me. The trick with making sure it doesn’t suck too much of your time is to go in with a pen and paper handy and a pre-determined goal. For example, your goal could be “I want 5 meal ideas for next week including my child’s love of crispy chicken strips, pasta or pizza.” And once you have met your goal, give yourself a pat on the back and move on to another task – I know the Pinterest rabbit hole is very alluring! 

These are some of my boards that you will love:

Easy Family Dinners

Play with Food Blog Posts

Finger Food Ideas

FOUR: Put your Phone / Tablet Away Before Meals

Another way to make time is to put your own phone / tablet away for about 20 minutes before meals and during meals. It’s not surprising to hear this, but time slips away when we are scrolling with no full stop. For example, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter do not have a full stop and are designed to keep you scrolling.

So, to help you harness the time required to get the kids ready to eat, putting your phone away helps you utilize those valuable minutes efficiently. Use this time to straighten out the kitchen, let the food cool down so that you don’t all sit down to food that is too hot or do some pre-mealtime exercises to get everyone in a positive, learning frame of mind before meals. Also, make sure that you have all gotten everything you need onto the table before you sit down. This way you won’t inadvertently modelling getting up and down from the table to fetch the water, salt, pepper, sauce, extra tongs, extra serviette/napkin etc.  Modelling sitting for the whole meal is particularly important if your picky eater is inclined to run away from the table

FIVE: Positive Mantras and Food Language Tools

You could use your next burst of free time to jot down some positive mantras and food language tools.

Find the language swaps that YOU want to use in everyday conversations with your family. (Hint: I have a list to get you started in this post on helping a child that is uncertain about a new food.) Put your phrases on a post-it note on the fridge. This will remind you about your chosen phrases just as food is being served. The best ways to talk about food are to NOT talk about food. So, you may want to pop “talk about day” or “plans for weekend” on your conversation list. If you are struggling with changing your food language that is ok, practice is the only thing that will change the language you use.  Also, see this list of sentence starters for non-directive language at mealtimes. And this list of FLEXIBILITY sentence starters that I popped onto Instagram:

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Sounds easy, hey? Nope. Nup. No. No Way. The barriers to flexible thinking are real for everyone. And for kids learning to eat, we need to appreciate what their barriers are and help them learn strategies for flexible thinking. To help your family, try these flexible thinking sentence starters: . 🌅”I am wondering …” 🌅”What if….?” 🌅”Tell me more about…” 🌅”What about when …?” 🌅”How else could I….?” 🌅”That interests me because…” . These phrases may open more doors to a “flexible” conversation. Modelling flexible language yourself is important. What things does your child find hard to be flexible about? How do you model flexibility when you are in a similar situation? X Simone #flexiblethinking #parentingpickyeaters #languageswap #positivemealtimes

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There are lots of ideas of other ideas for making mealtimes easier and for using your time wisely. This is far, far, far from an exhaustive list. Yet, I hope it got you thinking about your time. And your preferred ways to MAKE TIME. And how you want to use it.

What ways do you like to use your small pockets of time? Where are your most productive bursts of time? What other things can you do for YOU during these bursts of time?

Once you start consciously making time you’ll find room for hobbies, passions, connecting with friends and learning about the things you prioritise.

Simone Emery
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