Dinnertime is a really, really tough area when you have young children.
In the early years, we simply tag-teamed dinner if my husband was home, and if he was at school (as he was until our youngest were 18 months), I tried to make dinner as simple as possible. Before my eldest living was born, I had resolved not to feed my children hot dogs, chicken nuggets, processed vegetables, etc; we were going to raise our children on the healthy foods that my childhood was lacking in. Well, if 4 under 3 happens, you’re going to be serving a few dinners of noodles with dried powder cheese from a box. It is a stage, though, so keep that in mind; fish sticks and tater tots have not been enjoyed by my kids for quite some time now that our youngest are both 2 1/2.
The biggest, biggest help I can offer for dinnertime with lots of little ones in the family is baby-led weaning. My children were introduced to food, not pureed baby goop, but actual FOOD, at 6 or 7 months. They learn to get the food to their mouths quite quickly, and I did not have to sit over two babies and spoon-feed them. Yes, it is a mess, but after several months of baby-led weaning, toddlers become quite adept at feeding themselves, and you will notice yourself cutting everything into pinky-sized sticks less and less. And remember, “food before one is just for fun.”
We skip over sippy cups. I simply do not have time to wash them or deal with an in-between stage, and I had heard that sippy cups are bad for their teeth, so we go straight to cups with lids and a straw. I use regular straws, trimmed down, instead of the straws the cups come with so that I can throw them away when they get icky. We introduce small open toddler cups around 10 or 11 months for water, and switch to open cups for milk by 18 months at the latest, depending on the child. Around age 2 1/2, we use slightly larger kids’ cups. We tried the doidy cup when my eldest living was a baby, but he actually had more success drinking from open containers that were not slanted. Also, my kids learn to drink at the table, not in a living room, so spills are contained to the hard floors of our kitchen/dining area.
I bought these kid bowls when I was pregnant with our twins. They are fantastic! The bottoms are weighted and rubbery so they don’t slide or slip as easily as normal bowls. We use these all the time for yogurt. They are also quite handy for making easy Sunday desserts – pour your gelatin or pudding into the bowls, pop on the lid, and place in your fridge to set. When it is time for dessert, desserts are already portioned out for your children – sweet!
As for ideas on how to plan meals ahead of time, or how to save money at dinnertime, please visit this post I wrote:
May God bless you and your growing family as you strive to eat family dinners together!