The McDonald's Happy Meal Dilemma (And How to Solve It)
22 February 3, 2012
Okay, so your kid just did something amazing (like solve climate change) and you want to treat him to lunch. What does he ask for?
My 5 year old says, "McDonald's!!" In fact, he said, "When I move out of the house I am going to eat at McDonald's for breakfast, Taco Bell for lunch, and Burger King for dinner."
What? Does this kid know who he is living with? Perhaps, it is in response to his mother's career that he says such a thing, but I couldn't believe it.
The power of marketing is STRONG. The force of commercials, especially the ones he sees while watching football with his father, is more powerful than I could have dreamt.
And, the power of a cute box of food with a TOY?? AAAAAHHHH!!
So, I took him to McDonald's and wondered what I could do to stop this fascination with the Golden Arches. You see, McDonald's isn't cheap. A family of four pays about $25 for a meal there and I could pay less at a local joint.
I feel guilty about all those wrappers, plastic bags, straws, cups, the Happy Meal box which my child inevitably wants to save (and then forgets about). The toy is always a bit frightening too.
I realize that as a parent, I am to set a good example. We don't eat out that often, but when we do, I want to support GOOD food. A place that washes its plates, serves vegetables, and supports MY community.
What to do? I have come up with my own Happy Meal. One that will make the entire family happy! I will take my $25 and I will go to a local place and I will bring a lovingly wrapped toy that is like the Happy Meal toy.
You can find these toys at thrift stores, garage sales, toy stores, and Walmart. There is a great section of "party favors" at my local toy store that has a bunch of things for less than $1 that my kids will enjoy. Just get a whole bunch of strange stuff that will make your kids laugh and wrap them up. Store them in a hiding place in your car.
When it is time for a special outing, give your child a few local options to choose from and promise a Happy Meal (without the box).
And, then you can teach them about GOOD food, table manners, how to order, and how spending money is like voting. You will probably spend a little more than $25 but you will enjoy the meal a lot more.
How do you deal with kids and their love of McDonald's?
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