Class 6 Discussion


What parts of mealtimes are the most challenging?  Opening up space in that pre-dinner hour?  Getting meals started and on the table?  Jumping up because you’ve forgotten things?  Think about the structure of your meals with the Ritual/Connection/Entertainment/Ritual structure.  Is there one area that could use some work?  Use the extra videos to learn some fun finger games and songs, to help kids make it to the next “wave” of eating.

Successes?  Challenges?  Questions?

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  1. Yuanyuan Shen says

    This happens in last few days at mealtime. After eating for 5-10 minutes, Lydia wants to take off her bib. I love this silicone bib, except it can be easily taken off by children. She still wants to eat. But I don’t want her eating without a bib; I would probably need to change her shirt after meal. So I tell her, no bib, no food. She becomes so upset that she doesn’t want to eat anymore. So I take her down from high chair, and may let her sit on my lap for a while. But she is not done. After a while, she wants to eat more, and she is willing to put on her bib again. Any ideas for keeping her at table and wearing her bib?

    Justin and Austin like to play with food. When eating bread, after a few bites, they may imagine it is a car or a train, and push it on their tray or plate. I think a little imagination at mealtime is not a bad thing. But my silence encourages them. They start to play wildly, food on table (or on head, sometimes), bumping, and laughing. When I try to stop them, they are too excited to stop. I have to threaten taking away their food. When should I start to interfere their imagination, and avoid things going wild?

    I like the idea that we get to choose what, when, and where, and the children get to choose how much and whether. It makes me feel easier. But what about “how”: how to eat food. Lydia likes to first eat the part of the food she likes, then squeeze the rest, although she puts all the food in her mouth eventually. For example, when we eat pizza, she eats the toppings first. She used to ask for more without eating the crust. After a few times, she has learned she won’t get more until the crust is gone. So after eating the toppings, she starts to squeeze and nip the crust, into pieces, and play with them a little bit. It takes a while before she puts all the pieces in her mouth. Then she asks for another piece. That’s why it takes an hour for her to finish a meal. I’ve tried to let her watch me eating with big bites, but it didn’t help.

    20 minutes for a meal? Even I can’t finish in 20 minutes:-) I have to admit I’m a slow eater, and I need to serve and help 3 children. My children are all able to stay at table until they’re done. I think I will start with 30 minutes – try to finish a meal in 30 minutes.

    Can you recommend some super simple meal plans? I’m a Chinese. I probably spend too much time on cooking:-) I do want to make my life simpler. Sometimes, I don’t have the energy to cook, especially when we are back from weekend grocery shopping and arrive home around 11:30am. I just want something ready to eat, so the children can have lunch as soon as possible, and start their nap on time.

    I do like to have children helping in kitchen and have some nibbles of the ingredients, but I’m afraid they will keep asking for more, and may become upset if they can’t have more. What would you say?

    I think some of my questions in last week’s discussion are unanswered, and I know I ask a lot of questions. Can you take a look at them when you have time? Thank you!

    • Yuanyuan, With your daughter, can you use a large safety pin and pin her bib in the back? Sure it will make some small holes in the silicone, but it will help her bib stay on and then you won’t have to argue over whether it’s on or not.

      You asked about whether we can tell our kids “how” to eat. With older kids, absolutely; with littler kids, we start forming the “how” but are more accommodating. I like that she needs to eat the pizzza crust before she can have more, and I think that it’s fine that she pinches it, as long as she doesn’t drop the pieces on the floor, for example. You might try suggesting, “Come on, little mouse, take some mousey nibbles so you can get some more cheese!” And, you might tear off the dry part of the crust on her pieces so that she can finish her pieces more easily (but do it before you serve it to her, so that she knows that she still needs to eat everything on her plate before she gets more).

      In terms of your sons getting wild, rather than waiting until it gets out of hand and then having to threaten to take their food away, I would jump in and start shaping their behavior with their food from the beginning. Try working WITH their games as much as you can. “Oh goodness, trucks have to stay on the road, or they can drive into your mouths. That’s all, silly boys! You know that!” Then you might make car sounds as they “drive” their food towards their mouths. But if they take a detour and put their food somewhere inappropriate (on their heads, for example) then lose your fun right away. “No thanks. That food can drive to your mouth or stay on your plate. If it can’t do that, then those cars will have to take a rest.” Rather than threatening and threatening, I suggest taking it away after the first warning. When they want it back, ask, “Are you ready to eat your food?” If they agree, then tell them, “OK, you can try again, but if you forget to eat then I will take it away again. Do you understand?” The next time, take it away for a little longer, and let them know that if they forget again, then their meal will be all done. And then do it that way. Don’t get mad, don’t threaten, merely let them know and calmly follow through. If they haven’t eaten much, then perhaps put their food aside to give them again at the next meal. BUT, set them up for success and make doing what you want (eating the food) to be enjoyable and engaging, so that they don’t have to misbehave in order to get your attention.

      If 20 minutes feels too short, then absolutely go for thirty!

      While you’re preparing food, give out only tiny nibbles. If they ask for more, you can say, “We’ve had all of our pizza nibbles already. You’ll have to wait till we’re sitting at the table for more of those! In the meantime, you can have a nibble of tomato paste. What a funny taste it is!” Or, “You can smell the oregano. Can you smell it? It reminds me of my garden when I was a little girl.” Offer a sniff, and give them something else to do: to shake a bit of oregano, or to tear the leaves apart if it’s fresh, or something to stir, etc. Give them something to do instead of just thinking about how they can’t have more tastes. And if the disappointment is too great, then perhaps wait to give nibbles until right before the food is ready to come to the table. That way you can say, “Yes! You can have more tastes at the table. Let’s sit down right now!”

    • Yuanyuan Shen says

      The children all like soup at dinner. They can keep eating soup without other food. Now every time I give them a small portion of soup with a small portion of other food. It works very well with Justin. And he eats faster than before, which is unexpected. Austin and Lydia are still learning. Sometimes Austin is so frustrated because he can’t have more soup right away that he doesn’t want to eat anymore. Hope they will learn it soon.

      Flossing and teeth brushing for the twins is a challenging task. Lydia used to like it, but not anymore. Austin never likes me putting something in his mouth. Any ideas to make it enjoyable?

      Lydia runs away when I try to tie up her hair. It may be because she feels a little pain when I brush her hair. I’ve tried singing; it doesn’t work. If I don’t have something effective, I may have to cut her hair short.

      When Lydia is very upset and cries, and I try to give her a hug or hold her in my arm, sometimes she pushes me away. If I try harder, she will keep pushing, kicking, struggling… Of course, if I walk away, she will cry even harder. It may take quite a while before she calms down. I wonder how she wants to be comforted.

      It has been a while since Justin washes dishes with me. He wants to play and says he doesn’t want to help me washing dishes. Should I give him more encouragement, or is it totally fine?

      I want to make drawing a enjoyable activity we all do together. But it seems the twins are still too young to draw. They keep leaving table and take crayons and paper away, or put crayons in their mouths. So at what age they’re ready to draw?

      Justin often shows me his drawings or Lego pieces he builds, and asks “do you like it?” or “is it good?” I try to avoid judgement. What are the appropriate responses?

      Justin likes to play with my hair since he was a baby. When he was little, it was sweet. But now he often makes me annoyed and uncomfortable. Is he asking for connecting? I don’t feel that way. It’s more like a habit to me.

      Justin wakes up in night occasionally. He is usually sad or angry. He doesn’t talk unless he is fully awake. Sometimes he tells me next day that he woke from a dream. It may take up to an hour for me to sit with him and wait until he falls asleep again. Is there a good way to calm and comfort him?

      Lydia is picky about clothes. One day she likes this shirt, and the other day she doesn’t. It depends on how she feels at that moment. Any suggestions?

      I asked a lot of questions last week (and every week). It seems you missed one. It’s about how to respond the children when they want something but we don’t want to buy it.

      • -Soup is a great food that you can make very nutritious and balanced. If the kids love soup, I would take advantage of that and add more veggies, etc. and give them soup quite often!

        -If Lydia hates having her hair done, I would absolutely cut it short to make it more manageable until she’s a little older. There are enough struggles with toddlers without having any more than necessary.

        -My thoughts on toddlers and toothbrushing is that there are two goals, which are equally important: one is to get their teeth clean, and the other is to set them up with a healthy relationship with their teeth for the rest of their lives. So I don’t tend to agree with people who will pin kids down and force-brush their teeth; these children are just learning to hate and fear oral hygiene. I usually brush my own teeth and let the kids brush theirs at the same time, and we brush the fronts, the backs, the sides, etc. etc. Then I’ll go around and “inspect” the teeth, giving some teeth an extra polish. I will use imagination (for slightly older kids) or sound effects (for younger kids). One imagination that even younger kids love is having the toothbrush be a bunny who is looking for carrots. It “hops” all around but can’t find any. Then I tell it, “Silly bunny, carrots grow underground! Look for a cave to see if you can find some carrots.” Then I have the kids open up their “caves” (mouths) and the bunny finds lots of carrots and picks each one and nibbles it up. To be honest, I have never flossed teeth with very young kids.

        -How to comfort Lydia when she cries? I think that your question, “I wonder how she wants to be comforted,” is a really good one. You might try just being nearby and sending comforting energy her way, without touching her or perhaps even making eye contact. Then when she’s ready, hold out your arms and invite her to come to you for a hug if she wants one. She may want one or may not, but she will know that you’re available and loving. Other things you could do is when her crying starts to subside, try each of the elements of SMILE at different times. Perhaps she would enjoy getting into motion? Perhaps she would really respond to humor? Or to a little rhyme/finger game? Perhaps a little game of peekaboo where you’re peeking through your fingers and then covering your eyes when she sees you looking.

        -I wonder if Justin has lost interest in washing dishes because you were hoping that he would be able to do it on his own? Tasks with four-year-olds should be done together. It’s good to have a few quick tasks that are expected for him to do every day, but you have to be ready and willing to help him do them every time. For bigger tasks like washing dishes, I wouldn’t worry about him going in and out of wanting to help or not. Sometimes play is more important. As long as he’s getting other times to connect with you, and other times to practice following directions, then you’re fine. If you don’t have these things at other times, then you might encourage him more to get involved (just be sure to make it enjoyable for him).

        -Drawing: I don’t tend to do a lot of drawing with one-year-olds. We do it from time to time, but I only let the little ones have one color at a time (they can trade whenever they want), and it doesn’t last long. I’d suggest something more domestic and tactile, like washing the floor together, or baking together, as a regular activity. As to what age will they be ready to draw, this can really vary from kid to kid; some two-year-olds LOVE coloring, but many are still not that interested.

        -For Justin playing with your hair, it could well feel connecting to him (even though it’s annoying to you) or it could be habit, like you suspect. Either way, it’s worth replacing it with something that you both can enjoy. Perhaps a soft pillow that he could stroke? Or perhaps he could rub your arm? Or something else entirely? It’s perfectly fine for you to say that you’re done with hair playing, and find ways for him to get his “juice” some other way.

        -With four-year-olds and nightmares, I have known some families to have great success with hanging a Dream Catcher over the child’s bed. You tell him that it will catch all of the bad dreams before they can reach him. If he DOES wake up from a bad dream, you can tell him, “Oh, your Dream Catcher must be full. Let’s wipe it clean.” Then you can “wipe” it clean with your finger, and say, “There, that’s better. Now this Dream Catcher will catch all those bad dreams, and only let good dreams through to you.” Tuck him back in.

        -Lydia picky about clothing: Kids often go through preferences about what they “like” or “don’t like,” and these can change from day to day. If it doesn’t cause problems, I wouldn’t worry about it, and just let her choose. But if it keeps getting worse and worse, or she starts wanting to change out of clothes, or throwing little fits, then I would go the opposite route and stop letting her choose what she gets to wear altogether until this settles down. Or put a system in place, like everyone chooses their outfit the night before and lays it out, but then the next morning they MUST wear that outfit and there’s no discussion around it. Keep this up until it stops being an issue (and then keep it up some more). Often when kids start making increasingly unreasonable demands, that’s a message that they need more consistency (read: fewer choices) in their days.

        -I’ll look at the question about not buying things.

    • Yuanyuan Shen says

      Justin has much fewer tantrums now. He does have little anger sometimes. It happened twice this morning. I asked him to close the door, and he said no. But when Lydia ran to close the door, he became so frustrated that he threw a little fit. And he did it again when he couldn’t play with the toy Austin was playing with. If I ignore him, it will get worse and may become a tantrum. I hope there is an effective way to release his anger or distract him, regardless the reason that causes his anger.

      Austin starts to throw things when he is very frustrated. I wonder if what works for Justin will also work for Austin, despite their different ages.

      The twins can be aggressive to each other when they fight for toys: Austin pulls Lydia’s hair, or Lydia bites Austin’s arm. Or sometimes one sits on the other’s belly, just for fun. I tried to teach them to be gentle, but when emotion is high, they can’t hear me. I know they will learn it eventually, but at this stage, is there anything more effective?

      • With the twins, I would separate them for a bit if they can’t be gentle. “I’m sorry, I won’t let you hurt your brother. You can come with me until you’re ready to be gentle.” Even with these little ones, we can insist on Right Behavior by having a zero tolerance policy with things like biting, hair pulling, etc. They will get the hang of it much quicker if they learn that things come to an end when they don’t act appropriately.

        You could absolutely try the same things with Austin as you do with Justin. You will just have to use your intuition a bit to see how you’ll need to alter things for his age and who he is.

        Since Justin is doing so much better in general, when you have a morning where he’s having a really rough time you could get down on his level, pause and say, “Wow, you’re having a really hard time this morning, huh. I wonder what we could do to help you feel a bit calmer?” At four, sometimes they actually have good ideas. Other times just your loving attention will shift things around. And other times it’s clear that they need some earlier rest-time (even if it’s reading a book with you on the couch) or a special snack (chamomile tea and toast with butter?) or something that can help them “re-set.”

  2. I share some healthy recipes in the Extra Reading: Kid-Tested Grain Recipes, but those are all rice-cooker recipes. But I’d love to hear what other quick or easy recipes all of you use! Please share with the rest of us. Here are some of mine:

    -Cold steamed veggies that kids can dip in hummus.
    -My daughter loves frozen peas, straight from the freezer. They’re like a summery treat!
    -Mashed sweet potatoes. You can cook them in the microwave and then mash them with butter, salt and pepper.
    -My daughter also currently likes sausage, so I get nitrate-free sausages and cook up a whole package, and then I can pop one out really quickly. She likes it better when I chop them into tiny pieces, but she’ll eat the breakfast-sized ones on her own.
    -Mozzarella cheese sticks
    -I will also steam a big head of broccoli and put it in a tupperware so I can just pull out a couple of florets and put it on a plate with a meal.

    I know these aren’t really recipes, but just quick items that I can throw together easily. Meals don’t have to be gourmet, they just have to be healthy!

    What do other people do for simple, healthy meals?

  3. Angie Kochukudy says

    I’m sorry (and bummed) that I wasn’t able to post or even practice anything last week, as I was away at a camp without my daughter, and no internet connection. Fun (btw – I found that 8-11 yr olds have a LOT in common with toddlers!).

    So, I’m just now catching up on the call and these postings. IF anyone reads them…meal ideas.
    1) Sweet potato fries in the toaster oven (or regular oven) is one of our back up plans.
    2) Steamed frozen peas (my daughter has always loved peas. We’re working on mixed vegetables now)
    3) Sauteed chicken sausage, we do a lot as easy and finger foods.
    4) Spaghetti – but I take kitchen scissors and snip the long noodles short, so it’s not as messy. I make the sauce with zucchini and mushrooms in it, as then the veggies are more hidden. She’s still very picky about vegetables on their own.
    5) All-time-favorite: beef/sweet potato/squash stew: You can make this in a slow cooker, though I like the onions cooked and browned with the beef separately. It’s basically cubed beef (stew meat or roast), onions, garlic, diced sweet potatoes, diced butternut squash, diced carrots, and chopped mushrooms. Seasonings are: salt, black pepper, mustard seeds (add to the meat when sauteeing for best effect), cinnamon, cardamon, turmeric, and all-spice. Don’t add too much water, and it becomes a very thick stew. When cooked, the veggies get mushy and you can crush them with your spoon. My daughter loves this and I like it a lot too.

    • Angie Kochukudy says

      This may not be the right place since class is over, but I have a question about “nibbles” while cooking; I have given my daughter some nibbles of raw foods, and then she doesn’t want to try them when they are cooked. She doesn’t seem to be able to recognize that they will be different cooked. So do I just not give her nibbles of those kinds of foods? (I only give her safe raw food, btw). Just wondering…

      I have noticed (we were traveling all weekend) that when we are out in public, and everyone is sitting down eating, Sarina does pretty well at keeping food coming into her mouth with little prompting or assistance. It’s like the extra stimulation of others around her keeps her going. Wonder how to mimic that at home. And we will definitely start work on limiting dinner time to about 30 minutes. She is a slow eater (per even her daycare provider), and just takes her time chewing. But I’m ready to cut it off and see how it goes.

      • Hi Angie,

        It’s up to you what you want to give nibbles of, when it’s raw. I’d definitely start with cooked bits, and then once she starts getting more adventurous with nibbles, then you can start branching out a bit more. Or maybe it’s never something that she’s that into, which is fine.

        I’m not that surprised that Sarina does better when eating with others. There’s something VERY helpful about a “group mentality” for helping kids eat. So make sure that you’re always eating when she eats; the same things, at the same time. Even if you are taking very tiny bites! Or do you think that it’s the conversation that’s also helping? I’ll be interested in hearing how it goes to shorten your meals a little bit. I think that it will be something that you’ll like. My suspicion is that she’ll very quickly be eating the same amount (or perhaps even more) when the meals are shorter. But if she doesn’t, then perhaps consider adding an extra snack into your schedule. Just make sure it’s a healthy one!

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