Wednesday, January 25, 2012

feeding other people's from our table

School's letting out early, and hungry kids are about to pile off the school bus. They'll arrive just in time for lunch. {I hear a collective groan from a bunch of friends.} Based upon emails/queries you all send me, this sort of hosting completely stresses parents out. Here's my strategy for keeping mealtimes (with a variety of palates, preferences and levels of picky) sane. Or, as sane as 4 little ones around a lunch table will ever be:

  • Ask the parent(s) what his/her child typically has for lunch, and make sure you serve something similar. You don't need to cater to every child precisely, but it makes everything run more smoothly if you have at least one thing that is familiar and enjoyed by your little guest. There is nothing worse than having a child come to play, look at lunch with mild horror and then proceed to unravel because they didn't eat a thing.
  • Get everything prepared and laid out in advance. When the kids come in, have them wash hands and sit down to eat. It's much easier to get the meal down the hatch first thing, than to try to lure them out of the playroom or in from the yard once happy revelry is underway. Don't stress if the pizza's cold at that point. Trust me on this one.
  • Cut down on waste by letting the little ones serve themselves. 

Here are a few playdate meal examples...

According to his mom, our guest "really likes hot dogs and fruit". So, I laid out some grilled chicken-apple sausages + snap pea crisps + alphabet cookies + grapes + blanched green beans. Told the kids everything could be eaten with their hands, which made everyone want to try everything, including the green beans. Never mind that they became swords...

Our guest likes "plain sandwiches, just meat and cheese". I put the sandwiches on hearty bread, like my kids are used to eating...but if I notice the child seems freaked out by that, I tell them it's ok to just eat the filling.

"Pizza is her favorite food", can become an opportunity for a make-your-own pizza playdate, if you have the time and energy. If not (which is more often the case for me), I'll have both a plain cheese and a veggie one made, and served together on one platter. A few of my favorite frozen brands are Kashi, Amy's, AC LaRocco and American Flatbread.

I hope these simple tips help with your lunch prep when hosting little ones. Have another question or mealtime struggle, you can always email me and I'll share what works in our house, or do my best to link you up with another busy mom's ideas that might inspire you!

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