5 Tips for Less Mealtime Drama

And More Clean Plate Club

I feel like it’s safe to assume you’re probably a member of the Chicken Nuggets Club (I’m an honorary member myself). And THAT’S OKAY. At the end of the day, you are feeding your kid, so you are doing your job!

I know for our family, I just felt like I could do better as a parent, or at least, try a bit harder. So I tried a lot of things. A lot. We have come a LONG way with mealtimes, and I’m so excited to share with you what works.

1. Let them decide. Nope. That wasn’t a typo. All our kids want is a little control. And mealtime is one of the main places they exercise that right. When I prep dinner, I ask our kids (they each take turns) to pick which veggies we have for dinner. They get the SUPER IMPORTANT AND AMAZING BIG KID JOB of opening the freezer and choosing which veggies we have for dinner. Do they ever pick the broccoli florets. Nope. Never. I leave that bag there as a decoy so they think they have the choice. It’s probably expired honestly. But, it lets them feel in control, and they’re WAY more willing to join the clean plate club each night.

2. Have fun with it. I’m not talking streamers and confetti. But I am talking “oh you hate taco night? But you love pizza? How about taco pizza night?” Toddlers around the world be like “whaaaaaa that’s so crazy silly!” You take something yucky and make it silly, they’ll be more willing to try it. Toast a tortilla, let them sprinkles the cheese on, let them get their hands (and your kitchen) dirty.

Your kids will think you are awesome. Or insane. Jokes on them. Because you’re awesome AND insane. Bonus points if you turn on the Coco soundtrack in the background for that restaurant-y vibe.

3. Turn up. No I’m not suggesting you offer up a round of fireball with your spaghetti dinner. But, let them be kids. Our girls love nothing more than dressing for the occasion on pizza night. We’ve hosted Elsa, Princess Sophia, Alice and the like at our dinner table. And, hey, if it gets them excited to have a family dinner night, I’m not going to complain. I mean, I would personally LOVE if Clark Kent joined me for dinner tonight! 😉

Our dishware cabinet, since removing all the decision overload!

4. Remove the drama. I’m sorry if you don’t agree with me on this one, but there is one thing I despise most about toddler fine dining, and I can no longer be silent. Character plates.


I. Just. Can’t. They were created by the devil himself I swear. They tower high in your cupboard, never stackable, always waiting to topple on their next victim. They tempt and taunt your kids. Sibling rivalry knows no fury like the fight for the covetted favorite Minnie Mouse plate.

How familiar is this image? This was our cupboard before we simplified our children’s dishes and cups.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Let It Gooooo… Let them all go! I bagged those suckers up and sold them for $20. I used that money to buy an awesome stackable set. Everyone gets the same plate or bowl, no color variation to provoke World War 3, and I just saved myself a minimum of three fights per day. Per child. Boom. You’re welcome.

And while you’re at it. Ditch all the junk sippy cups. Pick up one or two quality water bottles for each kid. It’s amazing how responsible everyone gets when they only have one water bottle! AKA, no more lost milk sippies rolling around in the back of the minivan folks!

For the recipe on these kid fave gluten free pancakes, see my post here!

5. Light a candle. This one may sound a little bougie. Or loony. When I read this tip in my fave parenting book I thought the same. But try it out. There is something in our human psyche that is captivated by flame. Maybe that’s why some of my fondest family memories are set in front of a campfire.

A flame, even as simple and small as a candle wick, tends to calm our inner voice, drown out external distractions, and increase human connection. I mean, why else would a candlelight dinner be the set for romantic date night, and possibly the conception of one (or two) of your kids?!

Because it increases human intimacy. So next family dinner, light a candle, or two, and watch how your children settle in to mealtime (insert my due diligence to remind you to supervise your kiddos around any open flame).

And at the end of the day if none of these tips for you, then zap those nuggets for a third night in a row. And pat yourself on the back. Because, hey, at least you tried!

Have you found any tricks that help lessen the mealtime drama? Let me know in the comments!





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