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Help me get toddler mealtimes right

(19 Posts)
WhizzPopBang Sat 16-May-15 15:08:33

Background - DD is 20m, we live in a small flat, no dining area, tiny kitchen with small table and chair for her. DP and I eat in living room, usually trays on lap but we do also have a drop leaf table that we can get out but it's a faff.

So because DD sees us eating in the living room, she wants to eat in there too. We've been weak and let her have dry snacks / stuff that won't spill on the carpet in there, but of course she doesn't understand why we won't let her eat proper meals in there, which means tantrums and no eating til we give in. She now refuses to eat anything in the kitchen, cue more tears.

Plus the TV is in the living room, and I have given in recently in the morning when she wakes up ravenous (but has a total meltdown before she can even get the food in because she's so hungry) by putting the TV on so she calms down and absentmindedly starts to eat. Food goes in, happy child.

I feel like we've got in a right old mess - no wonder she's confused and testing boundaries. I'd like to say we'll just make the kitchen the only place she eats and sees us eat - hard to enforce but I'll happily try, but where do I start?

teacher54321 Sat 16-May-15 17:02:41

We've got a 3 year old ds and bought a mini table and 2 chairs from IKEA for him. They were about £20 I think. He now sits at his own little table and eats all his meals. He sits at the big table with us for more formal mealtimes and is happy to at granny and grandads or in a restaurant. Works for us smile

Lozzapops Sat 16-May-15 20:36:35

Could her tiny table and chairs be moved into the living room and placed on a wipe-clean tablecloth so any mess is caught there, and she gets to feel like she is where the action is.

Not really sure what to suggest about the tv to be honest. Sorry!

YDdraigGoch Sat 16-May-15 20:39:46

Could all three of you eat together? Same food, same table.

Artandco Sat 16-May-15 20:52:32

Can't you all eat at the fold out table? No tv for my meals yours or hers

WhizzPopBang Sun 17-May-15 14:03:15

Thanks for the replies. Yes she does like eating with us, so we can attempt that when feasible - easier for breakfast and lunchtimes, can't face dinner at 5pm though. I'll dig out the plastic mats we had for weaning - didn't think we'd need them again!

Since yesterday we have tried giving lots of forewarning about it being dinner time, time to sit at her table like a big girl etc, which has worked to an extent - managed to keep all food in the kitchen even with a few meltdowns on the way! DP and I tried to set a good example and drank our coffees this morning perched on tiny ikea chairs in the kitchen too, quite cosy grin

wheresthelight Sun 17-May-15 16:18:56

I am sorry because this is going to come across as rude and I don't mean it to be nasty...

stop being lazy and start putting your dd first!

kids need to have good examples set to them so if you want her to sit nicely at a table to eat her food then start leading by example. "it's a faff" is just a cop out and lazy in my opinion.

Artandco Sun 17-May-15 16:41:22

Could you get a bar type high table and stools for in the kitchen? Then stools go under when not used, and you pull out and all use for meals then slide away after?

Or get cushion type stools and all eat around coffee table (tv off)

Why does she eat at 5pm if you find that too early? Might be easier to just give her a small snack at 4pm, then all eat together later surely? We all eat at 7.30-8pm here (4 and 5 year olds), and have done since babies.

YDdraigGoch Sun 17-May-15 16:57:32

Eating together has far more benefits than just getting DD to eat at a table. Kids from families who eat together, at a table, with no TV have better social and conversational skills.

Agree with previous poster, do what's right, not what's easy.

WhizzPopBang Sun 17-May-15 17:43:41

The fact the big table is a faff doesn't matter, sorry I was being a bit glib - I suppose I just don't like eating in the living room full stop, wish DP and I didn't have to - would love to be able to fit bar with stools in the kitchen - pure luxury!

Of course her needs come first - I've just been quite concerned about getting food into her as she has never been a big eater, since a baby, which is why we've got into bad habits because I've been concentrating on her eating by whatever method worked. Sometimes, because dinner at nursery is so early, if she won't eat a decent snack when she gets home she wakes with shaky hands through hunger in the morning and TV has been a tool to distract her while she eats. It's horrid sad

I guess consistency feels tricky because she's at nursery three days a week - so those days she has an extra snack when she gets up, dinner at 4pm, then another snack when she gets home to get her through the night. So we've tried to keep her meal and nap times at least pretty similar to nursery. She usually goes to bed at 7pm, then we have dinner. DP also finishes work at different times day to day, because hes freelance.

We obviously just need to find some kind of consistency! I do totally agree about the eating together thing, we'll have to work on it on the days she's not at nursery.

Thanks for your candour - I do try really hard to parent well, but I'm obviously not getting it right all the time...

Artandco Sun 17-May-15 17:53:08

I mean a small bar that goes flat against wall and you pull into middle of kitchen with in use?

I know what you mean by small space as we have 4 of us in a one bed flat. We have space for a full table though but i did research bench/ bar things. Most fit 2 stools underneath and fold compact when not in use. Would take up no more space than a child's table and chair you currently have

Kind of like this

Then get toddler a junior chair like this from ikea. which could stand in corner of living room maybe when not in use

Artandco Sun 17-May-15 17:55:41

Or this looks good

wheresthelight Sun 17-May-15 18:12:40

none of us get it right all the time hun and the fact you are asking for advice and prepared to take some rough truths is a really good thing!

if she likes eating with you all together then you need to find a way of doing that. even if it's a case of a highchair in the living room (plastic table cloth under it) and the tv off while you all eat if a table is really so impractical.

but consistency is the key. if nursery dinner being so early is causing issues could you ask them to give her a snack rather than a meal and then she could eat at home with you maybe?

WhizzPopBang Sun 17-May-15 18:15:24

Thanks Art, I think I remember you from another thread about compact living! I was extolling the virtues of it, but what I wouldn't do for a kitchen diner and step free access.

Yes I do like those little flap wall-mounted tables - actually even one of those wouldn't fit with space to out three people round. I can't quite describe how small the kitchen is, but it's small. Like a galley kitchen with a tiny bit of wall space at each end.

This has got me thinking though- I might fiddle around with the living room layout and see if I can keep the table out rather than having to get it out at every mealtime. It's one of those ones with the folded chairs inside, bit like this:

Feeling inspired, thank you...

wheresthelight Sun 17-May-15 18:20:05

why not just leave it up with only one half up? a highchair next to it with you and dh sat at it would work better than her in a separate room.

Artandco Sun 17-May-15 18:23:09

For three of you I would say you could fit around that table most of the time with just one side open. So keep one chair stored away, and put the flat side against one wall with the three chairs around it. Add cushion for little one if needed. You would only need it large if you wanted food dishes in the middle to self serve but I'm assuming most of the time you can just have three plates and cutlery on there.

Yes our flat is small but basically is just 3 rooms. The kitchen, dining, living area is in one, bedroom the other, and bathroom. Having the table even though it takes up space really helps here. It means it keeps a lots of the children's stuff off the floor as they do all art stuff up there as well as Lego/ play sets etc so we aren't treading on it moving around.

Thurlow Sun 17-May-15 18:34:39

You don't have to eat every meal with her - it's hard striking that consistency of keeping the same meal times for them but also eating with them. We try and eat dinner with DD if we can, but often that means we don't eat lunch with her. I do make sure we're with her and interacting through, either doing the washing up or even just sitting at the table having a drink.

If you can find a way to keep the table out somehow that will be useful as she gets older, they start wanting to climb up to do play or crafts at a certain point and it's easier if you can just let them do it.

We have one of these folding tables in the living room with a little stool and it's proved insanely useful over the years.

WhizzPopBang Sun 17-May-15 19:10:17

This is all really helpful, thank you... I'll have a think about how we can achieve a decent amount of consistency between the two schedules, and then actually be consistent with it!

I reckon table half out all the time could work if I swap it's place with another piece of furniture, then it won't block the door. Then it'll be conducive to actually using it every day.

We've had the TV off completely for two days now, it's bliss. I almost wish I could cut the plug off it. Trying to explain this all to you all has helped clarify how to change things - it's all to easy to get caught up in your own excuses sometimes grin

YDdraigGoch Sun 17-May-15 22:24:20

I think using TV to distract DD while she eats is setting her up to have huge food/diet problems in later life tbh.

Have you tried encouraging her to eat by involving her in the food preparation? Eating alone is pretty dismal - I'm not surprised her appetite is poor. Eating is partly a social thing.

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