The Ben and Holly effect…

I’ve realised recently, that my two year old believes the rules of Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom apply to this house. For anyone who has a pre-schooler or younger school child, you’ll appreciate that magic always leads to trouble so that part doesn’t come into play. The threat of it, however, does. My toddler has threatened to turn me into a frog, with his breakfast spoon, a calpol syringe and our sitting room table lamp, on more than several occasions over the last few days. Reason being, he wasn’t getting his own way. Today he poured his Rice Krispies on the floor – because he didn’t want them, he wanted chocolate eggs instead. When I, in my humble opinion, quite rightly told him off for his behaviour, he put on his best Nanny Plum voice and Nanny Plum did not agree with me. “Yellow card for being naughty”, I was told. As I reiterated that this was not to happen again, he continued “red card for talking back”. Its hard to keep a straight face when I look at his earnest face and hear him quote lines from a programme now much more familiar to me than Eastenders, but I did my best. Once again the breakfast spoon was waved at me. This time I was to be a slug. That was enough to cause the breakdown that followed. “Where’s my wise old elf slug” he said, remembering suddenly that the slug was missing. Tears followed, as did frantic searches under the couch and behind the television. But no slug was to be found. We did eventually however, find the “wise old elf” under one of the cushions. This is my son’s favourite toy. “Silly old elf, back to yourself” he said, pacified once more. As we all know, elves don’t do magic, so now that the wise old elf has been found I am safe from being turned into a frog, slug or snail for the time being. Elves however, do blow bloody loud horns every time they say “and I’m an elf” so the six month old won’t be napping for too long……..


We have pretty much the same drill here every day regarding what happens when the kids get in from school. They’re each told to take their lunchboxes and beakers out of their schoolbags and after being asked about five times, they actually do it. I’ve become wise enough at this stage, to know that any keen “emptiers of lunchboxes” haven’t actually eaten their lunch, hence their sudden cooperative nature, so they’re always treated with particular suspicion. I am always told by way of explanation, that they “don’t have enough time” to eat their lunch. This may well be true because I hear similar stories from other parents that I’ve spoken to about this, but seeing as they have a set amount of time for lunch and it’s so important that they do eat as much as they can to help sustain their concentration and energy levels throughout the day, I have compiled my top 5 tips to encourage your child to eat their lunch
1. Be reasonable with the amount given. An oversized lunch can be very off-putting for a child as well as impractical in terms of time allowance. It’s also an excellent opportunity to establish good eating habits in terms of portion size. An appropriate sized lunch gives your child a chance of achieving what you have asked of them and finishing it, rather than feeling defeated before they even start.
2. Involve your child in lunchtime options. Is there anything in particular that they would like for lunch this week? Is that a reasonable option? If it is great, no excuse not to eat it so. Ask them for different suggestions and give them some of your own. Remind them that you are providing what you have discussed so they need to make a special effort to eat it.
3. If your child has two different breaks, which most schools do, consider wrapping the food for their breaks separately so that it’s easily accessible and no time is wasted deciding what to eat (or what not to eat until they have to!). Consider also providing a way for your child to store his “rubbish” from his smaller break in particular. A lot of schools don’t allow the children to discard their rubbish in school so they have to put it back in their bag and bring it home. The smell of fruit cores and empty yoghurt cartons can be very off-putting, especially, if like some of mine had a tendency to do, they placed them back in their lunchbox. Nobody feels much like eating the rest of their lunch when their tinfoil is coated in yoghurt! Nappy bags can be a solution here. Cheap and compact and usually fragranced to keep school bags from smelling of rotten fruit
4. Remind your child the night before, or the morning of school, what they have for lunch that day. This way you can get all the objections out of the way and explain, in advance, exactly why all the reasons they propose for not eating their lunch are invalid! It also means they know what to expect so there’s no room for disappointment or “I was hoping for…..”
5. Good old fashioned bribery, the secret to good parenting. If your school allows a small treat on Fridays (lucky you) then talk to you child about what that might be and agree if they make an extra special effort to eat their lunch this week, that treat might be a possibility. If that’s not allowed maybe a chart recording lunchtime success with a certain amount of ticks by the end of the week/ month meriting a favourite magazine/treat or whatever works best for your child.
Above all be consistent in your expectations and keep the faith! Lunchtime won’t always be this type of battle. As they get older the problem will providing enough!