Many a meal time have descended into a kind of seated jig for me. I plate up a meal, we sit down to eat and someone needs a drink, or someone forgot a fork, someone needs the toilet or someone wants more juice or in the worst scenarios they don’t like what’s on offer and I’m making something new. Meanwhile my dinner forms a skin and goes cold while my blood pressure creeps ever northward.
I’m fairly laid back but this was starting to really grind my gears. So, I looked at our problems and tried to come up with a solution. Part of the problem was a lack of preparation but a greater part of the problem was that I was removing the opportunity for my kids to experience natural consequences.
Welcome The Table Tray
I have transferred full responsibility to my 3.5 year old for getting our table ready for a meal. It’s his 18m old sister’s job to clear it.
Alfie was already on ‘table setting duty’ but instead of constructively observing I was meddling and nagging with one eye on him and another on the stove. I was hovering because he was finding it tricky and forgetting things.
What he needed was a way to organise his work. The answer was a tray.
This helped because tray would always look the same, so instead of having to look at the whole table to see what else he needs, Alfie looks at the small tray. The tray also reduced his to-in and fro-ing to one single trip. He loads it up, checks it and carry’s it to the table. If he needs something during dinner I ask “Was that on your tray?” If he says “No” I reply “Oops! Let’s remember it next time! Come with me and we’ll get it.” This allows him to feel the natural consequences of not preparing his tray.
What’s on The Table Tray
Alfie mostly sets up for himself and Indi so the tray needs to contain
- Two knives, two forks
- Two glasses
- Two napkins
- A facecloth in a dish
Presentation & Use
The first time I showed Alfie the tray and the cupboard where he could get things I told him that I had a “something to show him” that would help him “do his work more easily.” Then I modelled filling the tray, checking the items, carrying it to the table and unloading it.
He was already familiar with the item and the task of setting the table, all that was new was the tray.
It’s been available for a few weeks now and is working well. He knows exactly how to use the tray and I’m no longer jigging up and down at meal times. Everyone wins!