How to have enjoyable mealtimes with your child - another Not-a-Mommy-Blogger advice post

Look, kid.  It's bad enough, you not eating.  I just don't need that stress as WELL as not
knowing the answer to 43 Down in the crossword

Okay, I admit it.  It's about fifteen years since I last uttered the words, 'Darling, please do finish up your tasty-wasty swede and squishy-squashy carrot, and then you can have yummy pudding-wudding, and then I can stop crying'.  This is because there is really only one context in which it is suitable to utter all these words together and that's with recalcitrant non-eating young children and I now have none of these.  My children are still recalcitrant, but they are all over 20, and they all now eat without being forced.  I have considered saying those words once or twice to people at posh dinner parties, just for the hell of it, but I've wisely held back, and left out the 'Darling'.  I pride myself on careful decorum at social occasions.

Whose stupid idea was it anyway that mealtimes should come three times a day?  When you've got a child who won't eat, and consequently each meal time lasts three hours, the days just seem like one long please-taste-this-mince-or-I-swear-I'll-top-myself torture session.  There's barely time in between to scrape the spaghetti off the wallpaper and mop the gravy off the picture rails or, worse, the pictures themselves ('Honey, is it just me, or did our print of the Mona Lisa always have a brown birthmark on her left cheek?).  Then, before you know it, it starts all over again and you have another meal time fight on your hands.  Yeah, so it's an opportunity to bond with your kid, but who wants to bond with a food-splattered two year old masquerading as a casserole?

So, here's some advice from an Old Very Old Hand. I can't offer advice about nutritious recipes for meals that your child will love - that would make me a miracle-worker and, what's more, Stinking Rich - but what I can do is pass on a great idea for making those torture sessions much more fun for you as parents.  After all, when your days are spent trying to steer grilled tomatoes into a child's mouth on a ten-foot spoon from behind the sofa so they don't notice, there aren't many opportunities for fun, and you can forget that it ever existed.  (You have forgotten?  You don't know what I'm talking about?  Okay - dictionary definition of FUN: 'What you used to have up to one minute before you uttered those fateful words, 'I think my labour is starting'.  Remember now?)

How to have much more fun-filled mealtimes with your child 

What you need:

The child
The meal
The high chair
A blindfold (best have one spare - you know how it is)

Methods (more than one, please note.  This is no mean not-a-mommy-blogger.  This is a not-a-mommy-blogger who delivers.)

Now the fun can start!  You'll be glad to hear there are several different ways of playing this game.  Don't try them all on the same day, though.  As with all good advice about how to bring up your children wisely, you should allow them to adjust gradually to new experiences.

1. Blindfold the child. Feed it some really sweet pudding, so that it thinks this is what it's getting.  This gives you an advantage. Then, tiptoe to the front door, pop your head out, and nab the first passer-by.  Pay them a lot of money, and ask them to come in and take over the feeding process, handing them a bowlful of pureed vegetables in cheese sauce to feed the child with.  Then, nip down to the pub for a swift half, or along to the salon for a massage or leg wax, or, if you're really desperate, sit in the car, put the radio on, and nod off for a while.  Leave it about an hour, then tiptoe back in.  Offer the passerby the chance to use your shower before they leave, in case they're unhappy with the idea of going home covered in sauce and saliva, then see them out.  Remove the blindfold from the child and continue feeding.

2. Blindfold yourself.  Commence the feeding process.  Your child will be so disconcerted by you in a blindfold that its mouth will hang open naturally.  Sounds will no doubt come out of the mouth at the same time, but at least the mouth will be open, and actually, the sound will make it easier for you as you can use it as a guide as to where to aim the food, you being blind and all.  Should the sound stop, lift up the blindfold, say hello or sing 'Five Little Speckled Frogs' until the child smiles, then put it back on.  Recommence the feeding process.

3. Wrap the child's food in the blindfold and staple the edges together.  Sit the child in the high chair at the beginning of the day, strap it in firmly, and offer it no other food other than what is inside the blindfold.  It will relish the challenge of getting to the food, and although it may take it a day or two to access it, once it finds the food, it will be grateful for anything, even if it's mushroom omelette and broad beans.  The next day, your child should be more amenable.

4.  Cut the blindfold into tiny squares and offer them to the child for breakfast, mixed with milk and perhaps a few raisins and a little sugar - there's no point in being mean about it.  Again, the following day, the toast and peanut butter, or boiled egg, previously rejected, will go down a treat.  Should there be any demurring, you have a particularly recalcitrant child, and need to repeat the process again at lunch and dinner, ad infinitum, unless the problem is sorted.  It may cost you an arm and a leg in blindfolds, but, hey, you need your life back!

I didn't used to like this beetroot puree.  But I changed my mind.  I'd rather not go into why, if it's okay with you.

Please let me know how things go as you follow my advice.  Like any concerned agony aunt, I like to know how I've been able to help.  Write to


  1. I don't have children, but this sounds like so much fun I might give it a go tonight with the husband! Who says foreplay only takes place in the bedroom? I'll let you know how it goes... :)

  2. What works for us is removing the refused meal out of the child's reach but within their eyeline. Reverse psychology being what it is the child is usually clamouring to take repossession within 5 minutes.

  3. hahahahaha and I'm so glad I don't have children. Mind you, the children I don't have should be very glad too.
    However, I will pass all your good advice on to my heavily pregnant friends (cardboard boxes are already in stock, ready to be presented once the babies pop out) and hope they will not need it ;-)

  4. Talli - I'm not sure whether I want to know or not ...

    Steve - I did try that a few times with their fishfingers, but I kept eating them myself. That led to lots more clamouring, as you can imagine.

    Carolina - I'm glad you are passing on the advice. They will get better advice nowhere else.

  5. Take them out for all meals for a week but don't order them anything or mention food at all . Tuck into your food and , when they look sufficiently intrigued , reluctantly give them a minute sliver off your plate . Don't , whatever you do , stop conversing with partner/doing crossword/telephoning ( pick appropriate attention grabber) .
    This will only work if child feels that it's getting something you'd rather it didn't have .
    Expensive in the short term , but it eventually saves money on dentist's bills as you find you're not grinding your teeth quite so much .

  6. Surely the obvious solution is to feed them chocolate? All the major food groups: protein, all the stuff in milk, cocoa and ... well anyway, my son claims that chocolate is a fruit. And he's a doctor. So clearly he's right.

    Sorry about your column. I enjoy reading it, which is more than I can say about the rest of the TES. (Though this is partly because I don't read the rest of it.)

  7. Cute, I like the idea of blindfolding yourself. I can just see the little tot's mouth hanging open in wonder. Oh the things we go through parenting ;)

  8. I have a chipped tooth after once holding a spoon loaded with mashed banana between my teeth and using my arms as aeroplane wings for one of my adorable four at feeding time. She banged on the spoon with a refusenik fist and .......

    Anna May x

  9. Brilliant Fran, those 'spoon feeding years' are behind me and a relief for everyone, especially my husband who tired of me constantly referring to my childhood days a la Angelas Ashes and Monty Python 'In my day, a treat was a lick of the yogurt lid' etc, when the kids wouldnt eat my delicious grey mince dishes.

  10. SmitandSon - I love the logic about how it saves on dentist bills!

    Isabelle - chocolate is the solution, obviously. It's been my solution anyway! Why wouldn't it work on the kids? Thanks for your comments about my column. C'est la vie.

    Joanne - blindfolding can also mean that while you're waiting for the child to decide whether they want to eat their fish stew or not, you can drop off for five minutes and have a little nap.

    Anna May - I went 'ouch' when I read that. Talk about a war wound.

    Brigid - I absolutely love your continual Angela Ashes-type references. The yogurt lid thing made me laugh!

  11. This conjures up some wonderful pictures Fran....

  12. My only experience feeding babies was in the kibbutz baby house. We didn't fanny around with baby food either - they had what was going - try feeding actual spaghetti bolognaise to a 9month old!

    But I think a lot of parents have double standards. I was eating out with my mum (now in her 70's) and pointed out that she hadn't eaten her green vegetables. 'I ate some carrot,' she said. Would that argument have been acceptable when I was a kid? I don't think so!

  13. Katie -thank you. I do like to conjure up pictures.

    Brokenbiro - I think you should hide some sprouts under your mum's carrots, like we used to with our kids. (Hide sprouts under their carrots, I mean, not hide THEM under their carrots. Sigh. Syntax can be so awkward.)


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