Mealtimes. We want to teach values like enjoying our food, eating a balanced diet, enjoying each other's company, connecting as a family, being grateful for the bounty. Et cetera.
And yet there are those times when we need to approach meals as purely pragmatic. Calories in. Check!
What can improv do for us at meals?
1. Accept the reality of needing to be pragmatic (and don't feel guilty).
You can slow down at another meal, on another day. Improv is all about accepting what is in front of you. And not judging yourself through your aspirational parenting lens. Embrace those cracked rose-colored glasses, and heck, even laugh at them 'cause they're sorta funny looking.
2. You can still teach values while being calorically goal-oriented.
Being playful during meals brings connection and levity. If you're tense at the table thinking about what's next, your children pick up on it. If you take a moment to laugh, share a joke, or - gasp! - play with your food (see below), your kids notice. Taking pleasure in our food and time together can still happen when we're just getting through a meal.
3. Play with Your Food.
Elementary-aged kids ate twice as many carrots when they were called "X-ray Vision Carrots".
The other night our 4-year-old ate FOUR stalks of broccoli in one sitting because they were actually zombie brains and he'd turn into a zombie if he ate them (as would his mom).
Games to try:
- Re-name foods to fit your child's interests. Tomato soup = Robot Oil.
- Imbue a food with a superpower - but only if you eat it! Be willing to demonstrate said superpower.
- Get playful with the presentation. Create animals or colorful patterns for visual appeal.
- Give the food a voice, character or desire. Make up stories and scenarios that somehow end in someone's mouth (doesn't have to be a 'death' or violent!).
- Pretend to be a child who is afraid of her food. Let your child be the adult who helps you eat and teaches you why it's important to eat a balanced meal.
In our imperfect quest to be perfect models for our kids, recognize that a healthy relationship to food includes not taking it so seriously.