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.
Listen to podcasts / videos while you are driving
I love putting a podcast on for my 20 minute drive to my day job. It helps inspire and inform me. For example, I listened to a podcast all about uncertainty a few weeks ago which helped me understand some things for my family but also inspired a few blog posts around helping kids that are uncertain about foods. I linked to the original podcast here.
I also have put lots of videos into “Goodbye Picky Eating with Simone Emery” for the purpose of you being able to listen when you may be otherwise engaged in a task like driving, doing dishes, folding washing (laundry) etc.
Here are 2 audio blogs I’ve recorded for you to listen to and they will help with your picky eater:
- Is it OK to hide vegetables from Picky Eaters?
- Is it OK to send my child to bed hungry when they haven’t finished their meal?
Make 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 at least a spoonful of the family foods alongside some sides. The side dishes need to be foods that they will be successful at eating. You should also have some of their safe food for your meal. This will break down any barrier between “your food” and “my food”.
Browse Pinterest 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. It’s definitely my go to activity if I am in the car and my 3 yo has (miraculously) fallen asleep and I want to give her 5 more minutes to rest.
These are some of my boards that you will love:
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 end point (or full stop). So, to help you harness the moments required to get the kids ready to learn a new task, putting your phone away helps you use those valuable minutes efficiently. You can use this time to get the table set. So, when you sit down to your meal you aren’t inadvertently modelling getting up and down from the table. This is particularly important if your picky eater is inclined to run away from the table. You can also 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.
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 ones that YOU want to amplify for your child. (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 just as food is being served.
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.
You can learn recipes, tips and the background theory for saying “Goodbye to Picky Eating with Simone Emery” here. As a busy parent, I’ve written it for maximum results when you only get bursts of time. The course is self-paced but I nudge you along for 16 days and you have lifetime access to the materials and access to a private support group. If this still feels like a time constraint and dinner is your main bug-bear – have a look at my book all about fixing dinnertime battles by starting with afternoon tea.
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 them, you’ll find room for hobbies, passions, connecting with friends and learning about the things you prioritise.