Make mealtime fun

Here are some suggestions on how to make mealtime more fun:

• Try to take the emphasis off eating food because its good for you and focus instead on setting a mood of enjoying each others company while sharing a meal. Encourage good conversation, tell stories and jokes, perhaps light some candles.

• Make one night a week "restaurant night." Use a nice tablecloth, candles, allow the children to order from a menu, and pretend the family is out for a night on the town.

• Since any change in setting can encourage eating, consider having a picnic on the floor occasionally. Order pizza or other takeout, spread a tablecloth on the floor, and have an in-home picnic. One parent even sent lunch out to the treehouse for a lark.

My son enjoyed eating in different places around the house and seemed to eat more when he was having fun. I sometimes fed the kids on their own picnic table outdoors in good weather, and at the same picnic table in the garage during the winter. They were thrilled to wear their coats and hats to eat. Occasionally I would let them eat off TV trays while watching a favorite program or tape.

• Some families have theme meals, such as Mexican, Hawaiian, or Chinese. They use decorations, wear costumes, and cook foods with exotic spices.

• Some children seem to eat better if food is attractively arranged on the plate or is decorated in humorous ways. Preschoolers enjoy putting a smiling face on a casserole using strips of cheese, nuts, or raisins. Sandwiches can be cut into funny shapes using knives or cookie cutters.

My daughter liked to have food decorated. For example, we would make pancakes look like a clown face by using blueberries for eyes, strawberry for a nose, orange slices for ears, etc. She also enjoyed eating brightly colored food, so we would add a drop of food coloring to applesauce, yogurt, or whatever appealed to her.

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