How do you manage tea time with many children and ages?

(16 Posts)
coldethyl Thu 31-Jan-13 16:46:31

I've put this in larger families, because I think it's a family of 6 problem as much as anything else.

There are 6 of us - me, DH, DS1 (11), DS2 (9), DD (8) and DS3 (2). At the moment, we all eat at 5.30, but this really isn't working - DS3 has just dropped his nap and it too tired, DS1 and DH aren't really hungry.

BUT - if I served tea when everyone wanted it, I'd have to cook three times. DSs 2 and 3 would eat at 4.30; DD and I would eat at 6; DH and DS1 would eat at 7. Additionally, DS3 needs to be in the bath for 6.30 and bed for 7, and DD has various dance and music commitments between 4.15 and 6 on some days.

I really don't know how to play this. I've tried serving things that can be cooked for 4.30 and produced repeatedly thereafter, but no-one likes things reheated. If I give DS3 snacks to tide him over, he doesn't eat the meal and spends all afternoon begging for cheese and grapes and raisins and crackers and driving me mental. I can mandate school lunches and just give sandwich teas because DS1 buys rubbish (cafeteria) and DS2 / DD's lunches and frankly shocking (pizza with potatoes and bread twice a week, anyone?). So I'm a bit stuck.

Any thoughts anyone can add gratefully received. I'm off for more brew while I wind up to boiling eggs in shifts.

ChiefOwl Thu 31-Jan-13 16:51:47

Could you give ds3 his main meal at lunchtime (whatever you ate night before?) then he can have a sandwich tea, then everyone else can eat a bit later together?

MuchBrighterNow Thu 31-Jan-13 16:59:19

In France the younger kids have a "gouter" tea at 4.oo ish with a cake or sandwich . The younger kids are bathed and in their Pj's before everyone eats between 7 and 8 , then into bed straight after. My family has big age ranges but this works for us.

coldethyl Thu 31-Jan-13 17:22:48

Thank you both - DS3 won't eat a proper meal at lunchtime for some reason, but I shall try the 'tea at 4 then bath before proper meal' on him and see if it works. I reckon it will play out ok tonight as long as I get him in the bath in the next half hour, with tea at about 6.30 pm - wish me luck!

ginbob Thu 31-Jan-13 21:31:23

we tend to give the baby something and hour b4 everyone else, I.e. 11am and 3pm ish. the toddlers get something at 4.30 to 5pm and dd2 also, but they all have something easy to heat up like tuna pasta or casserole. we eat a tiny teeny portion with them just to eat together. it is hard to get the little ones to eat later so she gets made to eat earlier than ideal, really. we then eat a separate adulrs meal at 9pm or 10pm, when they're all asleep, and save some to whizz up for the baby or feed for lunch.... is indeed a juggling act, but wont be forever for you, and it's great youre all trying to sit down together.

coldethyl Fri 01-Feb-13 09:29:39

Well, bath-before-tea went down like a lead balloon last night, resulting in lightening quick bath after tea, which I was trying to avoid, and tears before bedtime. I'll keep it going for a week to see if it will stick, but the other thing we realised last night is a problem is music practice - this has always been after tea previously, but there isn't really time if there's only 30 minutes, and with one drummer, one guitarist and one saxonphonist, it's not as if they can play 'quietly'!

Will give it another go today. Thanks for all your thoughts, pleased to see it's not just me struggling with this.

LongStory Fri 01-Feb-13 21:41:19

ooohh this is a lovely logistics problem! We have faced very similar issues but I must admit I have always REFUSED to cook/serve/clean up more than once of an evening. We compromised on what and when we eat and all eat together as a family around 5-5.30. I have given the little ones very small healthy snacks to keep them going (e.g. carrot slices if I'm prepping veg) and anyone who's not hungry or not there in time can microwave the meal later. Also older kids who get hungry again before bedtime have a top-up bowl of cereal.

3monkeys3 Sat 02-Feb-13 18:27:47

I only have 3 and they're all under school age, but atm I eat with them at about 4:30 and the dh has his when he gets in at 6pm (i keep it warm for him). The plan is to eventually push it back to 6 and all eat together once everyone can wait. Dh and I used to eat really late and spend all evening preparing food - I much prefer it like this!

GinandJag Sat 02-Feb-13 18:39:55

I have five children - 10 years between eldest and youngest.

TBH, we never did the separate tea thing. We have always had family meals.

We eat between 6.30 and 7pm and everything fits around that, not the other way around. We put high value on eating together as a family so our supper time is fairly sacrosanct.

They have always had a proper school lunch, and have had snacks (fruit or plain cereal) available at home time to tide them over for the short time until supper. They have all been privately educated so their extra-curricular activities have taken place in school, so no need to be ferrying them to and fro after hours. I was always very slack about sticking religiously to bath-times (having had only a Saturday night bath during my childhood whether I needed it or not )

My advice to the OP would be to worry less about the practical parts of supper time and focus more on the spiritual parts (ie the act of eating together, talking about each other's day, enjoying the company). It should be less about the food and more about the people.

As for food, I always found it easier to use serving dishes (I know, more washing up) and let everyone serve themselves.

jenbird Sat 02-Feb-13 23:25:00

When we were 3 we would all eat together between 5.30 and 6.00. Now there are 4 of us and the littler ones need to get to bed we tend to bath them first and eat later (they are 10 weeks and 2.8). It didn't go down too well with the 2 year old at first but he has got used to it. My dh does the bathing giving me the chance to finish off dinner and do homework with the older two. I give them All a snack when they come out of school to see them through.

Harrysmummysarah1 Wed 06-Feb-13 20:47:14

I have three children. 7,4 and 1 at end of this month.
1 year old eats at 4:30 as he doesn't eat what girls and dh and I eat. He has a bath about 5:15 if he needs one. If not is in bed by about 6.
Dds 7 and 4 will eat about 5:30 both in bed by 7:30 latest weekdays.
Dh and I then eat later on about 8 as 5:30 is to early for us.

forevergreek Thu 07-Feb-13 16:41:02

Can you try and get him napping again? Or some wind down time in the afternoon so he isn't so tired and can't eat the same time as usual. 5.30 is still pretty early

honey86 Thu 07-Feb-13 20:10:38

my 3 eat breakie lunch dinner and snacks at the same times, if they dont eat whats on their plates they go without simple as... sounds strict i know but it works as they are all in sync, and i dont have to cook different meals for them due to fussiness... although i do sumtimes let them choose some things tho, like sandwich fillings, snacks, drinks etc x

defineme Thu 07-Feb-13 20:19:48

Dh and I work in a school so we all (kids all school age too) have lunch at 12. I'm starving by 5.30pm which is when we all have tea- on swimming night it's 5pm! Kids all have a piece of fruit or biscuit when they come out of school at 3.30. Ds1 (11) has supper of cereal about 8.30pm too.

I just don't think we have the kind of metabolisms that can wait 7 hours between meals with just a piece of fruit to keep going. When we're abroad I just move everything later, including bed times, but still never more than 5 hours between meals!

tostaky Sun 31-Mar-13 21:57:07

Got 3 children and a DP that comes home late - so the children eat together at 6 and then i eat with dp at 9pm. works for us.
Whatever i cook for the children we will eat/whatever i prepare for DP and I the children will eat.
i mean, its not like they have a choice and i dont have the time nor the inclination to cook multiple dishes every nights.

coldethyl Thu 11-Apr-13 16:41:52

Thank you all for your thoughts on this. The nap is long gone, I'm afraid, but time has helped. DS3 is now managing with his tea at 5pm (mostly pasta and cheese anyway!) and then vegetables with us at 6pm. It's panning out much better, although we'll see how it goes next week when all are back at school.

I do think eating as a family is very important (although DS1 has been told he's 'posh' because we all eat together - how does that work then?) but it's also a very stressful point in my day so I need to see in my head how it will work. I guess it can only get more complicated as the DCs get more independent!

Thanks again.

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