Eating is one of those aspects of parenting that seems like it should be a lot of fun -- who hasn't enjoyed watching their child's eyes light up at that plate of cupcakes? And yet, one of the things that has continue to amaze me is how many times in life I am going to end up saying it's not okay to stick your finger in the ketchup and lick it off. Sometimes I feel like a crazed paleolithic version of Emily Post: Bums in chairs, please and thank you. Because I really do want to have fun without losing my mind or raising feral eaters, I have added these elements to deal with our kids' eating habits: 1. Eat outside to relax As soon as the weather is warm enough, we start to picnic anywhere we can, from our front porch to the Toronto Islands. This includes breakfast. I feel like this gives us all a chance to relax, plus melon for dessert just plain tastes better when eaten out-of-doors. My sons have never had trouble distinguishing outside behaviour from inside behaviour. (Outside voices now, different story...) 2. Eat the big meal midday This isn't generally possible on weekdays, but neither of my kids is at his best for trying new things or keeping his elbows off the table after about 5 pm. So on weekends I sometimes make lunch the big meal (or perhaps more properly, dinner, followed by supper.) We've moved most of our family celebrations to lunchtime, and this is also when I introduce my kids to things like artichokes. 3. King for a meal Every member of our household gets to pick one meal (at the planning stage) a week, as long as it meets basic nutritional requirements. Eventually I am planning to have my kids host these meals themselves so that they learn to refill other people's water glasses, etc. 4. Fancy meals for future diplomats (i.e. really amp up your kids' eating habits) Although I put a hiatus on this for my toddler, I'm about to start this one over: About once a month we have a "fancy meal" at my house, where we break out our best manners, table settings and so on. As my kids get older, my plan also has been to introduce international meals with food from different countries as well as any cultural differences in eating styles. I figure my end goal is to be sure that my kids are comfortable eating anywhere from the beach to with the Queen, and that their overall habits are to be courteous and thoughtful. What are your parenting tools to keep meals on track in your home? Do you worry about your kids' eating habits? If you have a picky eater, we've got great ways to cope with your picky eater.