Dinner is uniquely challenging when you have more than two children. That’s because food gets messy while supersized appetites and varied tastes require flexible meal strategies and dietary restrictions. This often means you need to be creative in your cooking, prep, and management of mealtimes. Fortunately, here are some practical tips for feeding multiple kids at dinner.
Have a Plan in Place
You can easily plan what you need to do with a weekly or monthly meal list when it comes to meals. Further to that, make sure the kids know when they are supposed to eat so they can prepare themselves. For example, if you consistently serve dinner at 17:00, the kids know they should leave what they are doing and get ready at 16:50. And you can save money on groceries when you shop for a specific meal plan. Of course, it’s a bit tricky with babies, but you can see this article: ‘Newborn Feeding Schedule: How Often To Feed Your Baby‘ for expert advice.
Most people aren’t aware, but almost everything to do with food can be done in advance, and most things can be frozen. So, if your kids love spaghetti and meatballs (and they probably do), you can cook the meat sauce well in advance if you have some time in the morning. Then, when it comes to dinner, you just need to reheat the sauce (even in the microwave) and pop the pasta in the water. This means you can get everyone ready and where they need to be while the dinner basically takes care of itself. Just don’t forget the parmesan.
Enlist Some Free Labor
Did you know you can get the kids to help with meal preparation? This keeps them under your control, so you don’t need eyes in the back of your head come dinner time. However, according to a recent survey, only 33% of adults cook with their children. What a shame this is. Cooking as a family is an amazing way to bond and develop social skills. In addition, children begin to learn and, more importantly, apply practical skills. They will use skills like measurement, portion control, and even knife skills (under supervision, of course) for the rest of their lives.
Include the Kids in Decisions
One of the best ways to make mealtimes a little easier is to let the children decide certain things. You can generally get the children to behave a little better when they know they are getting something they were involved in. So when your kids know it’s marinara Monday, and they choose the meal, you can almost guarantee they will be ready and waiting for their favorite meal. Alternatively, you can mix it up by having one child pick an item for the day’s meals. For instance, one can choose the meat, another the sides and another what you will drink.
Make Dinner a Fun Time
As a parent, you know how hard it can be to get the kids to sit still for any amount of time. All they want is to play, and every little thing is wondrous. So it’s not surprising that mealtimes can be trifling when you need them to be well-behaved. But you can make dinner fun with a large family. Some simple ways of making mealtimes engaging include using various containers the kids can grab things from, serving a variety of dips, and sneaking some fresh vegetables with a mystery box. And if you have stuff to use up, play at being a restaurant and give them a menu.
BONUS: Feeding Multiple Babies
One baby is a challenge, but you might have two, three, four, or more. So it goes without saying that you quite literally have your hands full. However, you needn’t worry because there are some tricks you can use to feed multiple babies, including:
- You can use each breast simultaneously to feed two babies if you are able.
- Keep a record of which baby has been fed and when.
- Set individual times for each baby, and feed them close together.
- Tandem breastfeed more than one baby and rotate who gets the expressed milk.
- Make formula or expressed milk bottles in advance, so they’re ready when needed.
- Track the progress of each feeding, so you know how much to give.
- Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help if you cannot manage.
If you have twins, triplets, or more, you can certainly breastfeed them. Most twins are breastfed until they are ready to eat solid foods. Then, try a few different positions until you’re comfy to see what works best for you. Hospitals and midwives can provide lots of help with feeding.
Get the Children to Set the Table
Coming up with an activity that you can do with the kids can be challenging, and it may seem like you are struggling to manage some times. Everyone is tired, the house is a mess, and you need a break. So why not give your kids the opportunity to get involved in the boring parts of making dinner? Sometimes, decorating the table can seem like a chore, but kids love to do it. Rummaging around the drawers for cutlery, getting out placemats, and setting their favorite fizzy drinks and cups is what kids live for. And it will teach some responsibilities while they’re at it.
Use Time-Saving Devices
With multiple children to look after, you need your time to make sure they do what they’re supposed to. So it’s no surprise that making food can sometimes feel like a waste of precious time. But with gadgets like food processors, blenders, and even pressure cookers, you can take most of the effort out of your daily meal preparation. Of course, you can always use canned foods as a bit of a cheat. Is it really necessary to boil, dice, and peel tomatoes for a Monday night meat sauce when you can just use a can of chopped tomatoes from your store cupboard?
Engage with Each Child
Watching your kids grow and develop makes being a parent massively rewarding. So, you can use the time at dinner to really get to know your children by engaging with them. This will also make them easier to manage since they will wait for their turn to speak and tell you all about their day. However, a survey found that 30% of parents don’t know what to talk about with their kids. Some popular questions include asking about the food, their homework, and how they get along with their friends. For the most part, they won’t be shy at all about these topics.
Offer Rewards for Good Behavior
Offering Rewards for good behavior can be an effective strategy to manage your children. For example, rewarding your kids for being good at dinner is a great way to encourage them to sit still and enjoy their meals. However, it should be used sparingly. You want your kids to behave well because they know it’s the right thing to do, rather than using it as a way to get something they want. Because of this, it’s essential that any rewards revolve around practical things like screen time or seeing a friend rather than something bad such as a bag of candy or fizzy drinks.
Have a Day Off with a Takeaway Meal
Cooking all the time can feel like a massive chore, even if you’re single and childless. So with multiple kids, it can be a nightmare. But you deserve a day off now and then, and ordering your favorite takeaway is always a great option. With food apps like Uber Eats and Just Eat, you can effortlessly order delicious meals. And you don’t need to lug the kids into the car and into a busy restaurant, where you know they won’t behave. However, ordering food isn’t usually easy on the wallet or the waistline, so keep it to a monthly treat if you need to watch either of these.
Managing kids at mealtimes is a skill in itself, but you can struggle. Fortunately, there are many small hacks you can try to get the kids to behave. Of course, planning ahead is always a great option, and preparing whatever you can saves tons of time. But you can also make dinner more than just a time to eat by engaging with the kids and including them in decision making.