Last year’s Christmas lockdown was, for most of us, a pretty quiet affair and it’s safe to say that this December, we’re itching to dig out the decorations and look forward to sitting round the table together to celebrate the festive season in style with friends and family we may not have seen for a while.
And while Christmas should be an opportunity for everyone in the family to relax and have fun, socialising with babies or toddlers in tow can often turn it into a stressful power struggle. And it’s easy to see how: weaning, cutting teeth, long journeys and late bedtimes can combine to turn even the most angelic little ones into fractious little monsters.
Here are some of our Do’s and Don’ts to help minimise the stress of mealtimes over the Christmas period (and beyond) both at home and out and about, to ensure that everyone has a good time:
DO establish family mealtime routines (but try to be flexible!)
At Christmas we tend to throw all structure out of the window, but young children are not so adaptable and will struggle to change their eating patterns and routines overnight, so if that means eating Christmas lunch at midday, it’s a small price to pay. Involve older children in coming up with some easy mealtime rules and make sure the expectations are clear before sitting down to eat.
DO praise good behaviour
It’s easy to only react when children ‘play up’, but it’s just as important to look for the positives when your children behave well during a meal, such as tasting something new or staying seated at the table.
DON’T stress the mess!
Babies and young children can be messy eaters; spilt cups and upturned tomato pasta on the floor can cause untold stress for parents, especially if you’re eating out or away from home. Our Wipeezee® range includes practical, easy-to-clean bibs and placemats which are designed to make mealtimes easier and more relaxing throughout the whole weaning journey.
DON’T set your expectations too high
This seems obvious but giving yourself a break when you have a baby or toddler isn’t always easy. While you may be harbouring ambitions for the ‘perfect’ Christmas lunch with delicious, home-cooked dishes magically arriving on the table bang on time, save that for Nigella. Who says it has to even be turkey and all the trimmings? Think outside the box and serve something tasty that everyone will enjoy and can even be mashed up for a baby. For a totally stress-free option, you could even throw something into a slow cooker and set it to cook overnight.
DO involve children in the meal preparation and clean up
Cooking makes it easy to learn about food without having to eat it and kids love helping in the kitchen, so find age-appropriate ways to let them help, such as stirring, cutting and serving. Even young children can help with setting the table.
DO make mealtimes FUN!
While mealtime with young children tends not to involve much in the way of deep conversation, it’s nevertheless an important skill to learn, so make a point of chatting about the fun parts of your day. No screens at the table (and that includes parents!) – instead, Christmas is a great opportunity to include some table games, pull crackers and tell some cheesy jokes.
Finally, take a breath and try to remain calm, often easier said than done when your child is being fussy or misbehaving at the table. It’s only one mealtime out of many, after all.
Finally, we wish you a very happy Christmas from all the team at Bibetta!