It’s just gone six o’clock and I’ve already finished dinner. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ravenous come 9pm, but that’s life with kids – especially if you want to eat together as a family, which is something I’m trying to encourage, despite the ridiculously early mealtime. (Although, if the health gurus are to be believed, eating before 6pm is actually good for you).
While eating dinner when the sun is still up might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s the best part of my day. Eating meals together at the table is one of those childhood family traditions that I have held onto since becoming a mom. Talking about our day, taking time to be together as a family without the distraction of the TV, cell phones or laptops is a great bonding exercise and an important social interaction that allows children to practise valuable social skills.
But connecting with loved ones and navigating the rules of social etiquette (something my kids are still learning – no, it’s not okay to throw food or talk with your mouth full) aren’t the only benefits of having a meal together. I’ve found that eating together also sets the tone for winding down for the day.
We settle into a slower pace that signals the beginning of the night-time routine. After dinner, the kids have a bath and then jump onto the couch to watch their favourite TV show – which is currently Ben & Holly despite my many attempts to convince them to try something new – before we head to bed to read stories.
“… the beauty of the Bumbo seats is that they cater for children up to the age of three years and they come in a variety of great colours.”
Of course, sitting down together as a family isn’t always a civilised affair, nor is it an easy feat. Most nights, after dishing up for everyone else and finally sitting down to enjoy my own food, someone inevitably asks me for something – water, a cloth to wipe their hands, a tissue for their running nose, or an entirely different meal. Yes, kids are funny like that. What they love one week, they loathe the next. It’s not uncommon for my children to push their plate of food in my direction, stating quite simply “it’s disgusting” – their new favourite word.
I try explain, as calmly as possible, that last week they loved it and given this is a home and not a restaurant there are no menu options. This thinly veiled threat of sending them to bed without dinner never works and I inevitably end up making them a peanut butter sandwich. Note to self: keep it simple – kids don’t appreciate your many culinary experiments.
On the nights they do tuck into their food, most of it ends up on the floor or their chair. I’m a little sad they have outgrown their Bumbo seats – I miss the days when they quietly sat in their own seats, which were easy to clean, unlike my newly upholstered dining room chairs!
But, despite the challenges, I persevere with the tradition because I think it’s important. I do believe, though, as is true with any routine, the earlier you start, the better. It doesn’t matter if your little one hasn’t learnt to sit on their own yet, they can still be part of mealtimes.
I used the Bumbo Floor Seat when they were really little – it’s suitable for babies from as young as three months. The freedom it gave me – and them, to sit unassisted while being fed – was life-changing. The Bumbo tray makes it easy to “set a place for them” and as they get a bit bigger, they can try feed themselves too – an important part of their sensory development and fine motor skills. Thankfully it’s easy to wipe clean, so you don’t need to panic about the mess!
And the beauty of the Bumbo seat range is that they cater for children up to the age of three years and they come in a variety of great colours. The Bumbo Multi Seat, for instance, has adjustable height settings and a removable foam pad to accommodate the growing child.
While my two are now too big for their Bumbos, being able to create a routine around mealtimes from when they were very little has helped make mealtimes together a natural part of our family life. And with our lives being so busy and our attention being split into so many different directions, carving out that time for each other is more important than ever.
So, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, sitting down together despite the chaos that might ensue is so worth it. For me anyway.
Bumbo images supplied. All Bumbo products are available at major baby retailers and Takealot.com.