We were at a conference this weekend where we spoke to a number of moms about healthy eating. Their response was almost universal – how do I get my kids unplugged? How can I get them to put down their cell phones, turn off the TV and stop playing video games so that we can sit down together at family meals?
Here are some ideas for getting your family “unplugged.” Try them and see what happens:
Be a good role model. It really starts with the parents as role models. I’ve written in previous posts that kids may not listen to their parents, but they are great imitators. They watch what everything you do as a parent. It’s really hard to convince your kids to give up texting or turn off the TV if you text during meals or curl up at night with the TV on. As a parent, you need to embody the behavior you want your kids to exhibit. That means leaving your phone in the drawer when you’re talking to your kids and doing something fun with the whole family after dinner.
Get them involved in cooking. When kids are involved in selecting, preparing and cooking the meal, it’s much easier to get them to sit down with the family and enjoy it. In fact, when kids prepare the meal, they want the family together when it’s served and they want you to talk about it. If you have young children, they may be too little to help with the actual cooking, but they can help choose what to eat and even get the ingredients out. If they’re a bit older, then they can be involved in the whole process. Our 15 year old niece used to play video games in her room on Friday nights. After we spent some time teaching her how to cook, she now spends Friday evenings in the kitchen with her friends. Now, she teaching her friends to cook too!
Make meals fun. The conversation at family meals doesn’t have to be the usual, “How was your day?” To which most kids reply, “fine,” and that’s the end of it. Instead, really be “present” during meals. This means that you (again, remember that you are a role model) put aside your day and really focus on the people at the table. When your kids ask questions, engage them in conversation and give them thoughtful replies. Ask open ended questions too. These are questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” One question we like to ask our grandkids is “What interesting questions did you ask today?” This question both catches them off guard (or at least it used to), and causes them to think about their conversations with others that day.
Make meals an adventure. Nobody says that eating healthy has to be boring or tasteless. Try serving meals that include options and new or different foods. One meal that we like is a taco bar with lots of goodies. Let each person fix their own plate. Another one that we learned from our daughter-in-law is “omelet in a bag.” Everybody gets to add ingredients to their own plastic bag with scrambled eggs in it. Then the bags all get dropped in boiling water and cooked until the eggs are done. The bags are opened and each person has their own personal omelet!
It’s important to get your family unplugged at meal time. Try some of these ideas and see what a difference they can make.
If you would like to eat healthier, we recommend that you read our FREE eBook, Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? Many of the strategies in this book can be used by both children and adults.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you and your child make today?