Raising Healthy Eaters: notes and observations

“If my life were a movie, mealtime in our home would be the gory part…” I wrote over eight years ago in an emotional post my hobby blog, Under the High Chair.

I had a toddler and a baby, and was devastated to report that the disaster we called ‘family dinner’ was a real let-down. “Things will get better” I was told by many people, and of course they did eventually. But at the time, when everything I made ended up on the floor and I struggled to eat everything one-handed, I wondered nightly “What is the point?”

The truth is, the family table is a wonderfully intimate yet ever so imperfect gathering place.

During the good times, it’s the best spot on earth – and when things get ugly, we have to will ourselves to stay in our seats and endure. If you’re enduring, I’m here to tell you what other parents told me – things will get better, in their own time and in their own way. In the meantime here are a few things to remember about feeding kids that helped me over the past decade.

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Kitchen Tasks for Kids Ages 3-5

The subject of children’s kitchen tasks came up quite a bit during my recent round of interviews for cookbook promo, which got me thinking.

Over the years (we’ve had five good ones here) I’ve never really shared a guide to kid’s cooking skills by age. I’ve got children of my own in three distinct categories, so note-taking on this subject is easy. Noah, Mateo and Clara remind me daily of what they are capable of and are always surprising me with new accomplishments.

So this is the first post in a little blog series covering kitchen tasks for kids. We’ll look at ages 3-5, ages 6-8 and ages 9-11. After that they will be off and away on their own! Or at least that is the plan.

It’s important to remember that skills vary greatly at this age (and every age, really) so take this list with a grain of salt. Don’t worry if your pre-schooler isn’t making sandwiches or peeling eggs just yet.

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Our guidelines for good manners around the table

“Mom, can we ask Ethan why he was late?”

My eldest piped up with this question around our Sunday dinner table, while sitting across from the named guest. I remember trying to silence him with a look, and then muttering something along the lines of “we’ll talk about it later.”

Ah, kids. They certainly aren’t born with manners. It’s up to us, the parents, to teach them until they grow up and begin to grasp the meaning of tact and diplomacy. A most interesting discussion on the Simple Bites Facebook page a while ago encouraged me to write down and share our guidelines for good manners.

We strive to teach good behaviour around our table, but, boy, is it a work in progress. I’ve learned to heap on encouragement, striving to give 5 times the praise for each reprimand or instruction. Some nights it feels impossible to find anything good to say, but the children perk up with the praise and noticeably try harder.

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A birthday party mingle for Clara and Mateo

Clara and Mateo’s birthdays’ are only ten days apart, so a combined party for them last Saturday was my eleventh-hour attempt to shortcut the birthday season this year.

It was a little helter-skelter, but still great fun, and a success, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t have to do it all over again in two weeks, so that is the definite bonus. Mateo was kind enough to share the spotlight and Clara is still young enough to go along with any plan, especially if it involves cake.

Montréal photography duo Tim and Angela Chin are more like family than friends now (we’ve been working hard on my upcoming cookbook together) and I was so thankful they captured our double party with their unique perspective. Goodness knows, I wouldn’t have had a single photo otherwise. Here are a few images from the special day.

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Kids in the Kitchen: Reader’s BEST Tips

I wanted to begin the new year with a challenge to bring your kids into the kitchen more in 2014, but the whole thing felt a little…pushy.

The truth is, you already know the short and long term benefits of cooking with kids. We’ve have shared a handful of recipes to begin with and talked about how you can get started immediately.

The groundwork has been laid, but what is helpful now is practical advice from other parents who are actively cooking alongside their children of all ages.

Today, we’ll hear tips for bringing kids in the kitchen from readers who have emailed, commented or interacted on social media. These tidbits are just too useful not to share and I know you’ll relate to these honest parents and their experiences.

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