The Importance of Family Meals
This is related to my picky eating series, but is important for everyone! If you are worried your child may be a fussy eater or even if they’re not, eating as a family is one of the most important things you can do.
Family meals mean all family members sitting around a table sharing the same meal together this can be breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a snack. This doesn’t have to happen at every meal, but as many times a week as possible is perfect. Even when they are very young and eating at different times to you, you can do this by eating a tiny piece of what they are eating at the table with them.
Family meals are the perfect time to:
Model good eating behaviours – not just the food being eaten, but modelling good manners, use of cutlery, thanking the cook and speed of eating.
Serve food buffet style and allow everyone to serve themselves allowing the child more autonomy. For younger children you can ask them what they would like and then serve them asking them to say how much. It also helps to check where they would like it on the plate. You may think this is pampering, but just take 2 minutes to think about your food preferences and how you like it served – we all prefer things a particular way.
Talk to each other about your how your days were, make plans for the next day, make jokes and have fun. As long as your child isn’t messing around at the table as an avoidance tactic to eating, it’s ok to laugh and be silly at the table. Make some silly faces, pretend to steal each others food, pretend there’s an imaginary dinner guest. Meals don’t have to be serious affairs just focused on eating.
In order to start meals off on the right foot make sure you give them a warning that the meal is nearly ready, so that they have time to finish whatever they are doing. Once food is on the table give them a few minutes to sit up. You wouldn’t want to be chased to the table when you’re in the middle of something.
Make sure everything that you need is on the table. You can ask the child or children to assist with laying the table, putting dishes and/or sauces on the table and making sure everyone has water. Don’t forget a bib, a cloth and anything else helpful when feeding messier children.
If your child is stressed by mealtimes, doesn’t enjoy them or is reluctant to come to the table and leave what they are doing, it might help to have some music that you play when it is mealtimes or allow them a small toy on the table as company. Making mealtimes relaxing and enjoyable is key.