Okay put your guards down fellow Mom’s. I’m not about to knock down McDonald’s or make you feel guilty about feeding your kids from McDonald’s. I’m only trying to drive home a HUGE point that is always overlooked and often poorly fostered; the RELATIONSHIP you and your family has with food.
McDonald’s spends a huge amount of money and dedication focusing on your relationship with their food. First, they make it extremely stress free and convenient. You don’t even have to get out of your car AND if you do, there’s typically a wonderful indoor playground for your kids to enjoy. Your kids get to see pictures of their food before they eat it. The food looks exactly like the picture, you’re kids are getting what they expect. No surprises, except for the toy that comes with the meal.
The meal itself, whether it is a burger or chicken nuggets is comprised of the easiest oral motor task for your child. Everything that is offered in a McDonald’s kids meal is already processed and super easy for your child’s mouth to break down. The healthy addition of the apples come peeled, no skin to break down and all one color. From a sensory perspective, McDonald’s is a picky eaters dream come true.
Visually, there are no surprises.
Olfactory, everything smells the same.
Tactile, everything is super easy to chew and doesn’t change as you chew it.
YES, McDonald’s has done their research and has a super fun, relaxed, trusting relationship with your child and your family. You’re relaxed, your child is eating and everyone is happy at McDonald’s.
Now, compare your eating at McDonald’s relationship with your eating at home relationship.
You come home from work (tired and stressed) have to make dinner, entertain your kids, acknowledge your pets and FINALLY try and vaguely communicate with your better half ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!! Impossible not to be stressed. Kids may be snacking because they just can’t wait and you just need to get dinner on the table. Once you get to the table there could be a variety of scenarios that families fall into just to get a civilized meal. Some families make totally separate dinners for their kids, some appease them with Ipad or TV just to get them to stay at the table, some have their kids stay at a “kids table” or even eat separately and at different times. Most of the time, parents are stressed because their kids either want to play with the food, comment on how “yucky” it is, outright refuse, or play with it, anything BUT eating. Grrrrrr
See the difference? VAST isn’t it.
Now, I hope I have your attention on the importance of your families RELATIONSHIP with food.
Don’t worry, the answer isn’t trying to replicate McDonald’s at home BUT you do have to work on making it fun and relaxed. Here are some tips on how to do that:
1. Have your children participate with the preparation. You can do this at any age and with more than one child at a time. They will be engaged and first hand preparing their sensory system for what’s to come.
2. Create an ambiance, lighting and music do set the mood. The more relaxed and happy you are the more engaged your child/children are at the table, so pour that glass of wine!
3. Serve family style, let them be an active participant on what goes onto their plate. They’ll surprise you.
4. Don’t sweat it if they refuse. Acknowledge what they’ve eaten already and know that every child everywhere eats dinner only about 1/2 the time. They can always have something afterwards…this is okay. Remember you’re fostering a positive relationship. Keep it relaxed and positive.
5. Let them get up when their finished or just not eating. Avoid the battle, keep it positive.
6. Forget about table manners, let your kids have fun and go hog wild some times. I mean it, food fights and all. These are kids, not adults. Table manners come much later. Yes, we let our kids pour and throw and wear their food. It’s messy so be prepared but your kids relationship with food will be positive and confident. As always, remember that your child has to go through the STEPS of eating and getting messy and playing with their food is how they get to the final step of eating. See previous post for reference of the all important and critical STEPS of eating.
Did you Know? There are more libraries than McDonalds. So forgo the golden arches and make a weekly trip to the library instead.
I really like the idea of having the kids participate in the preparation and serving of the food. I have so many fond memories of cooking and baking with my parents (or just watching them cook and bake)…food is a lovely way to have a bonding experience. YES to taking the fun parts of McDonalds and having them at home (in a healthier situation!)
My five year old daughter loves to cook with me, 16 year old daughter loves to bake, and my 13 year old son loves to eat. Dinner time should be a fun time for the family to relax and wind down from the day (in a perfect world) sometimes life is just a little more hectic.
A side note on McDonald’s: I was having a beer at the local tavern. The bartender and a constituent (both ultra fit crossfitter people) discussing the evils of McDonalds. She had never actually eaten there. The funny thing was that they were awe the race leader of their utlra marathoner pack. Apparently, McDonalds is all she eats 🙂
Lisa Bellotti says
Great reads, Karen!!!!!
Ugh, dinner time during the week is so stressful. I’ll be the first to admit that it can be tough to sit down and have stress free dinner without trying to rush. I’ll have to think of easy dinners to let the little guy help in the preparation. An easy way might be preparing a menu during the weekend and then we will know what to expect during the week. Maybe Wednesday’s and Friday’s could be the day that we have family dinners where our 4 yr old can help. Thanks for reminding me to slow down and enjoy my family