Monday, March 22, 2010

an amazing trip trick: keeping kids at the table

Our children love hearing a story. Probably because I started reading to them the very day they came home from the hospital.

Recently, I was talking with someone who said that although she tries to read to her children for at least 20 minutes a day, her children will not sit still long enough to hear a book. They'll jump up and run around and get distracted, or fight over who is going to sit on her lap.

My advice was that instead of sitting on a couch to read a book, they pull up a chair to the kitchen table. And when their children are sitting down to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner, they read to them.

Granted, there are a lot of times I will sit down on the couch and cuddle up with one or two children and read them a story. But it usually happens, that once I settle in to a comfortable position with a book in my hands and children on my lap, in a matter of seconds, I'll fall sound asleep and start snoring. It's the craziest phenomenon.

So we opt to read around the table. We don't read during every meal, but at least once a day, typically during lunch, each of the children will select a book. We also use meal time to review flash cards, the daily calendar, or any other activity that requires the children to sit still. Hence we've discovered that aside from preventing the overcrowding lap issue, and story time induced narcolepsy, the Numero Uno advantage of reading to our children during meal time is that while we have their rapt attention, they finish whatever is on their plate.

Provided it isn't broccoli. Or cabbage. Or any kind of vegetable except sweet potatoes or carrots, preferably in the form of a pie or cake.

But you'd be amazed at the nutritious things children will eat, when they are distracted by a story and content to sit in front of their plate for 30 minutes or more. I've currently got my kids hooked on almonds. And salmon. And although they have never much cared for string cheese, when I peel the cheese so it looks like worms, and then read them a story about a mama bird feeding her baby birds, they'll chomp them right down.

Although strangers might shoot me funny looks whenever we're out and they overhear me telling my children to finish eating their worms, I silently applaud myself for using their highly creative imaginations to my advantage.


  1. This is a great idea. I'll have to give it a try. We always read at bedtime. He loves it, because he thinks it's delaying bedtime. It's not, I have it worked into the routine.

  2. Absolutely brilliant idea! And the superhero comment

    Hope everyone is recovering nicely and the germs stay away for a while.

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  4. What a fantastic idea! My kids actually have no problem sitting still for a book, up to an hour at a time. Mealtime reading wouldn't work for us, though. Melody has a need to comment on everything, which makes eating slow going. The darn food makes her have to do the unthinkable ... stop talking for a few seconds!

    Lap sharing is also easy at our house. Jessica's the lap sitter, and Melody the leg-lounger. Daddy's lap is still big enough for both of them, but they still prefer that configuration.

    I'll have to pass your idea along to a friend with a similar problem.

  5. I love this post so I had to share. My mom did this with me when I was a kid and one of my favorite memories are the special mornings where she would make French toast and read and read from the Little House books. I think we had gone through the whole set by the time I was 4 or so and it instilled a life long love of reading (and a lifelong habit of sitting at the breakfast table with a good book).