Life with Lots of Littles: Lunch Made Easy

If your family is like ours, meal times are a bit of a hassle: several bowls/plates to prepare, and no helpers.  Meals are simply full of stress and mess when you have young children, and there is no avoiding it.  It just comes with this stage.  I do have an idea to share, though, something that has helped me out tremendously over the past year.  I am just going to call it:

Sound nice?  It began with a gift to my children from my in-laws last Easter:

This picnic table by Little Tykes is very useful in our house during lunchtime, and as it seats six children, it is also wonderful when we have guests.  When it is indoors, it is used as a table for coloring books or flipping through board books; this table certainly gets a bit of use in our home.

Back to the idea I wanted to share…  After we received the bench last year, I began using it occasionally on our back deck so that my kids could eat lunch outside during the warmer months.  Because my youngest were not even 18 month and I was not sitting at the table with them, lunchtime with personal bowls and cups quickly turned into a huge mess that was harder to clean because of the bench’s low height.

I then tried to contain the mess a bit by placing all four meals on a combined platter using a heavy glass one that could not as easily be moved by the kids.  They then took what they wanted from the tray instead of a bowl.  This helped contain the mess a bit, but more importantly, I noticed it was also so much easier to prepare and refill one platter than four individual settings.

From left to right, here are some recent lunches I have prepared for my kids:

  • strawberries, nuts, snap peas, sticks of cheddar cheese
  • halved grapes, celery with peanut butter, wheat crackers
  • bananas, cucumbers, mandarin oranges, sticks of cheddar cheese
  • sliced pears, halved grape tomatoes, sliced colby cheese, wheat crackers (they love making their own little sandwiches)
  • blueberries, baby carrots, veggie straws
  • halved grapes, ginger snaps, peanut butter on a slice of wheat bread

My children love eating lunch from their group tray on our back deck during the summer.  They each have their own cup, but they share everything on the tray.  A year into this method, we do have a few rules in place:

  1. You may only hold one item in your hand at a time (no hoarding)
  2. The tray is not refilled until it is empty.  This is an excellent motivation for the lesser loved foods to be eaten, which is something that does not happen as easily when each child has their individual bowl or plate to polish off.
  3. If there are individual piles of an item (such as ginger snaps for Sunday), each child is shown their pile, and nobody else may touch their pile.  The rest of the tray is shared.  My kids (age 2-5) understand that piles mean something special that day and that they have to respect other piles belonging to their sibling or face the consequence of losing their own pile.

So, that’s that.  Lunch made easy!  Clean up is pretty quick with this method, and my children love eating outside with their tray.

This post is part of a series; for a list of other topics covered, please click on the image below.

May God bless you and your family!