The 3 parts to a winning pre-dinner routine
A quick routine before mealtimes, can help prepare kids mentally and physically. It can put them in a positive frame of mind, which is essential for being able to eat to the best of their abilities.
A routine might differ to fit each family, but we like to use a little from each of these 3 areas:
1. Sensory calming exercises
It might not be immediately obvious how movement can help kids get ready for mealtimes, but the right kind of exercise could help to bring balance to their bodies and minds. Activities which give ‘proprioceptive’ input place pressure on the muscles and joints, and can be calming for children, especially those with sensory needs.
Our friend Keiran Deck (AKA Ninja Kicks), instructor of the Secret Ninja School, has given us a few fun exercise ideas that your kids could choose from for proprioceptive input, thanks Ninja Kicks!
Squat as low as you can, and walk with your knees bent. Try to take the slowest steps possible.
Face down on your chest, lift your legs, head and arms as high as you can and hold.
Start in a plank and see how close you can walk your feet to your hands, while maintaining all four limbs on the ground, with straight knees and elbows.
The Sea Shell
Lie on your back and try to curl yourself into a ball. If you can do this, then try to reach both feet behind your head and touch your toes on the ground.
Lie flat on your belly and reach one hand above your head. Then stretch the other hand underneath you. For example, your right hand should be reaching past your left side while your left hand reaches above you. This is a great stretch for your shoulder capsule.
If your kids might like to learn more Ninja moves, and even save the world(!), you can check out the Secret Ninja School here!
2. Helping prepare the meal
Having the kids help with cooking or setting the table, can give them some ownership and helps them understand more about the meal we are making. This might take away some of the fear of the unknown, which many picky eaters have.
We like to ask our kids to help season the food with a little pepper or dried herbs. They enjoy having this responsibility and they will often try a small taste before and after adding the herbs.
We’ve recently started trying to make time to say a quick thank you before we start eating. I think this can us all to connect, mark the beginning of the meal, and it’s a lovely way for kids to learn about showing appreciation. While picky eaters might not want to eat all of the food (which is OK), they can still show gratitude.
Some families might have a religious grace they can say and take a moment to think about together, for our family we are using this simple thank you:
Thank you all for being here.
We are grateful for this food.
We are grateful for this time to be together.
We’d love to hear if you have a pre-dinner routine and what works for your family?!