Notes to the babysitter

Finally, went away with my husband for 2 nights. The kids were alone with sitters for the first time on overnights. Here are my (pretty hilarious) instructions to our fabulous caretakers about food:

Hi guys,

The kitchen is stocked, here are some guidelines:


even though I just wrote that in caps, please don’t make a big deal about this in front of her. I did, at first, making her terrified and shy about trying foods. Her allergy is very mild, don’t worry about checking ingredients, just ask her to pay attention to how her mouth feels. If the food has eggs in it, her tongue may get itchy and she will stop eating on her own. But, obviously, don’t give her eggs. I am writing about this because both Lucy and Rose love scrambled eggs for breakfast. You can also hard boil Lucy eggs for her lunch at Zoo camp.

Otherwise, as I think you know, the kids are allowed to eat what they want, when they want. They each have their own foodshelf in the cupboard. The order from top to bottom is Lucy, Alice, Rose. In the fridge, Lucy is in the middle, Alice the drawer above, Rose below drawer below. How it works is you make their meal– cereal, eggs, pasta, whatever. They cannot keep asking for food or ask you to keep making food. You are not a short order cook or servant. If they do not like what you made or do not feel like eating it, they can get whatever they want from their foodshelves, bring it to the table and eat it. I don’t care if they eat cereal for dinner or oreos for breakfast. Just make sure you put something healthy out.

If someone runs out of something on her foodshelf and the other kid is eating that thing in front of her, she has to share it or put it away.

to eat after dinner because they use eating to manipulate bedtime
to eat something in front of the other, if she doesnt have any, without sharing
to keep asking you to make food

Also, please do not use food as a reward. If you want, you can use the event of going out to get something and eating there as the reward, but not the food. If you promise them food, you should be prepared to give it to them even if they misbehave.

Here’s some stuff in the kitchen now that they like:

Eggs (Rose and Lucy)
Fishsticks in freezer (Alice loves with ketchup)
Frozen peas
Chicken with stars soup (Alice loves)
Black beans (Alice loves)
Whipped Yoplait yogurt (Alice loves)
Wonder bread, ham, cheese, salami, jelly/ butter sabwich, rice cakes with peanut butter, granola bars– all can be for Lucy’s lunch

You will probably need to buy milk. I’m leaving an envelope of $ for each of you. Let me know if you had to spend more.

PLEASE PUT SUNSCREEN ON LUCY BEFORE CAMP, make sure she has water bottle for camp


More info on how I feed my kids in order to prevent eating disorders (or, possibly to document exactly how I screwed them up)  here.

5 thoughts on “Notes to the babysitter

  1. I’m absolutely fascinated by this idea and want to give it a try … though I’m not so sure I can sell my husband on it. Right now, I am basically the gatekeeper of food for my girls, ages 2 and 4, and thus have become a short-order cook to kids who seem to grow pickier by the day and beg for lots of junk food. Mealtimes are often much more a struggle than a pleasure–I miss actually looking forward to the evening meal. I’m intrigued by the notion that my kids might become more open to trying new foods, might actually eat less junk and that the whole power struggle around food in my house might vanish if I suddenly throw the ball into their court by giving them ready-access food shelves–not to mention how much easier it would make things for me. But again, I worry it will be a hard sell to my husband who grew up in a “Clean Plate Club” household. I also worry about how long my kids might go hogwild eating only Oreos and M&Ms before they settle into better eating habits on their own. Any advice or insight on either matter?

    • Intrigued,

      Yes! I have advice– play the gender card! My husband was reticent, but I said told him that so many girls are so messed up about food including for years, me. I explained how I got better by learning to listen to my body instead of outside doctrines and it makes sense to him. Also, I gave him the book, Preventing Childhood Eating Problems by Jane Hirschmann. Besides my own experience, I got all the practical how-tos from this book. She also wrote two books for adults. My husband never actually read the book, but the fact that I had something in writing to show him seemed to help. Just remember, if you start this and it’s new, your kids will test with you. Stick with it! It’s so worth it. And get the book, it shores you up when everyone tells you that you’re crazy.

      Good luck!


      • I ordered the book!

        It was fortuitous that the Babble post popped up on my Facebook news feed today, as I was just in the middle of an email conversation with my sister in which I was lamenting how I wished I could get my kids to eat more healthful foods. Sadly, especially with my four-year-old, we seem to have gotten into a rut in which she has three go-to meals for dinner or lunch (chicken nuggets, hotdog or PB&J… all offered with a side of raw baby carrots, the only vegetable she’ll eat), and I worry that she’ll not only get bored with these selections, but that eating the same things over and over again–especially if she has to eat them in order to indulge in a dessert later (more my husband’s policy than my own)–will become laborious. That just seems to have “unhealthy relationship with food” written all over it. My younger daughter is much more adventurous, but so was her sister when she was younger. It would be nice to not end up down the same path.

        Moreover, it’s occurred to me that I apply similar philosophies in other areas of parenting. Don’t want to wear a coat on a cold day? OK, I guess you’ll have to feel what it’s like to get cold a few (thousand) times to realize that a coat is actually a good idea. Waited to long to go to the bathroom and wet your pants a wee bit? No big deal, but you’ll be the one who is inconvenienced by having to go upstairs to get a dry change of clothes. Want to bring a dozen toys with us on a trip to to run errands? OK, but you’ll be responsible for holding them, and maybe you’ll soon realize it’s best to not bring more stuff than you have hands. In fact, the more I think about it, this is very consistent with my overall parenting approach. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book to learn more!

  2. Hi Papa Bradstein,,

    Tips, yes! You have to give the kids foodshelves, food they can access and reach. They will be absolutely thrilled about this, so keep the focus on that. Tell them that if they do not like what you have made, they may go to their foodshelves and choose what they like. Make sure they can also access bowls, spoons etc for cereal. Often, my kids opt for raisin bran or cheerios instead of what I made for dinner. Consult the book ‘Preventing Childhood Eating Disorders’ by Jane Hirschmann for more specific info.

    Good luck!

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