Monday, January 18, 2010
Parenting Shortcuts - Vol. 2
Mmmm....celery and apples with peanut butter!
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I was griping last weekend about how, when the kids are on break from school, I end up playing waitress/short order cook. It was particularly bad over the Christmas/New Years break. All 4 of them have very different schedules and needs. On many days, I found myself making breakfast 4 different times, lunch 4 different times, and supper 4 different times. All of this PLUS snacks. I spent a good portion of their vacation in the kitchen.
So as I whined about my predicament, my sister-in-law reminded me of a technique that I used when the boys were smaller (before the girls were born). Make up some trays of healthy food and leave them on the table.....and allow them to eat whenever they need to.
I started doing this, many years ago, for several reasons:
1 - Little, growing bodies need constant fuel....but they need it in smaller doses than an adult does. 3 apple slices and a piece of string cheese might be all they need right now. And maybe they'll come back in an hour for 2 whole wheat crackers with peanut butter.
2 - It's important for a child to be in control of his or her own eating habits. One of the quickest ways to encourage childhood obesity is to deny the child's own hunger cues.
3 - There are meltdowns and tantrums that can be avoided simply by keeping the child's blood sugar level steady. Have you ever been so hungry that you get shaky, sweaty, tired, and dizzy? That's what it feels like to have low blood sugar. (I have plenty of first-hand experience with hypoglycemia.
4 - Less time that I have to spend in the kitchen.
5 - I discovered that, by suppertime, my kids were too tired and distracted to eat a full meal. And, quite frankly, I hate eating a full meal and immediately going to bed....I can easily sympathize with their desire to skip it altogether. So if they didn't eat more than 3 bites at suppertime, I felt better knowing they had eaten very well through the rest of the day.
6 - Peer pressure isn't always a bad thing. If Rachel sees a plate of yellow bell peppers on the table and she sees her brothers eating them, she is more likely to take one and try it. If this happens enough times, she might decide that she really loves yellow bell peppers.
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I had to stop and think about why I had ended the "buffet" serving. Most likely, it was when Alexa was old enough to climb onto the dining room chairs. At that point, it wasn't safe to leave certain foods on the table. Rachel is nearly 3 years old now and eats the same food as the rest of us....so I'll be able to resume the practice.
Today, a couple hours after breakfast, I put out buttered bagels, apple slices, and celery with peanut butter. It worked like a charm. I successfully avoided the Mom, I'm Hungry chanting. Which is closely related to the Mom, Can I Have chant.
The beverage situation is pretty similar. I have small plastic cups stored in a location that they can all reach. Our fridge has a water dispenser right on the door. So the question, "Can I have a drink?" is answered with, "Sure! You know where the cups are and you can help yourself to some water."
This clearly isn't a method that works for everyone. I think most parents prefer to encourage their children to sit down for 3 or 4 scheduled meals. Which method is better? Who knows? It's honestly a matter of what works best for you.
For now...for us....this is what works.