We’re now at the end of week 827 in lockdown. Only 3 more weeks to go! Not sure about you, but everything is starting to get a bit tedious now. I’m absolutely loving the slower pace of life, the causal mornings and the relaxed attitudes all round. But not being able to just pop out, hang out with people other than my husband/kids or have a meal that hasn’t been cooked by me or destroyed my kitchen, is wearing thin.
One of the saving graces of recent weeks has been routine. Without one, everyone in my house would be completely out of sorts.
Thank goodness for routine
Routine is great, adults and children thrive with a routine. It doesn't have to be rigid and it doesn't have to be followed every day, but having a rough outline of things to do each day/week really does help in the current situation.
Let's take making our beds and having a shower. These two simple tasks start our daily routine. These are things we would do out of lockdown without even batting an eyelid, but at the moment it's something that can easily get pushed back and pushed back until all of a sudden it's tomorrow. Simple tasks like this help set the day's mindset positively.
Children need routine, but they also adapt so well to new and strange situations.. We're not doing our usual activities outside of the home. We're all getting creative trying to entertain our little ones during lockdown. The only set in stone routine for children at the moment is bed time. I think you'd be hard pushed to find a parent who isn't watching the clock from 6pm wondering if it's too early to send them to bed. Even though children adapt well and are really quite resilient, they do prefer a structured day of sorts. Realistically meal and bed time routines are the only constants right now. Having to split time between working from home, homeschooling and daily exercise means each day varies wildly. One thing that doesn't vary wildly right now, a child's need for snacks. Which brings me to my daily food battle tips....
The daily battle
Why is it always about food?
"Mum, I'm hungry, Mum I want a snack. Mum can I have..?" In the first week and a half of lockdown I heard this 8 million times an hour. Week 4 and I think I hear it 6.5 million times, definitely an improvement.Sticking to a meal time routine can be hard at the moment. Especially when you need 5 minutes to take a work call or use the toilet. I'm guilty of giving Logan and Kaia something to eat to keep them quiet. This isn't the end of the world, but if it's done too often, it can create future bad habits. In a normal day children will have 3 meals and 2 snacks, this should still be followed. I know, I know, easier said then done.
I can't stress enough, this is not a normal situation, things are not going to be perfect and THAT'S OK. Don't put too much pressure on yourself.
As mentioned above kids need routine and knowing when their next meal is, is a prime example. I have taken to setting out the daily snacks with their water bottles in the morning and discussing their meals with them. First week/ten days, they ate all the snacks in one go and struggled with not being able to have more. Now, they manage it really well themselves. Don't get me wrong, I have to remind them from time to time that if they eat that now, there's nothing for later etc.
By discussing the daily meal menu, they know what to expect at breakfast, lunch and dinner and has reduced the dreaded "What's for X" question by around half of the usual amount. It also forces me to take stock of what I have and plan meals sensibly. Using up what's about to go bad and getting creative with what I have. Honestly, it's been a game changer.
Did you see my "Ask me anything" story?
This week I popped up on stories and told you lovely lot to "Ask me anything". I loved this and thank you to everyone who participated. I was asked multiple times about picky eating and getting dinner time right for all the children in a household.
These have got to be some of the hardest parts of meal times for parents in general, but now, oopf, it's beyond tough.
I shot a super quick video on picky eating during lockdown over on IGTV. Go check it out, but for those of you not on Instagram, the main points are pretty much the same for picky eating outside of lockdown, which I have covered in a different blog post. Now is the time to work on it, you have total control of meal times and there are zero outside influences undoing your hard work. Keeping all children happy during mealtimes, this is tough.
We have thousands of taste buds, each one of us prefer different flavours. Children are no different. In fact their taste buds work much better than an adult's. They are a lot more receptive to different flavours. It's unreasonable to expect that every meal you serve will be liked by all your children. So, do you make multiple meals or never serve kid 1's favourite meal because kid 2 doesn't like it? Neither seem like a pattern you want to start.
My advice for this isn't too dissimilar to tackling picky eating. You don't want to start setting the precedent that you will make multiple meals (unless it's a special occasion, like kid 1's birthday). So, get creative with the way you serve the ingredients or serve with alternatives.
For example, if you know there are elements of the meal that kid 2 likes, try serving them slightly differently than the main meal you are making. If this isn't possible, serve the meal family style with other options on the table. Kid 2 will then eat the other options without any pressure to eat the meal they dislike. Removing pressure from meal times is the key to children relaxing and enjoying the exploration of food. Which will aid in them trying new foods and developing healthy life long attitudes towards food.