How did I go from family meal times being something I dreaded to being something I look forward to? Let me tell you…
Our dinner table used to be a battlefield. Pleading, yelling, bribing my kids to just try their meal. I’ve lovingly created many a dish that is quickly rejected by suspicious small eyes.
But, I managed to change the dining table into an enjoyable place and you can too! A place where we can sit and chat about our day. Where we can talk about flavours and enjoy each other’s company.
Why did I change it? Creating a happy family mealtime is important. Role modelling is one of the biggest influences on children’s eating habits. If you eat and enjoy healthy foods in front of your kids, your kids will learn to follow your lead. Kids are more likely to try new foods in a relaxed, calm environment. Plus, I’d rather have fun than feuds at the table, it is far more enjoyable.
Here are my tips for creating a happy family mealtime:
1. Eat with your kids
At the table, without distractions (namely, turn off the TV). Do this at least once a day, more if you can. At least one adult with the kids (it doesn’t have to be the entire family all the time). I make sure that I sit and eat with my kids every dinnertime. I used to wait for my husband, but now I eat with my kids, as I want to educate them about healthy eating. We plan two days a week where my partner is home early enough for us to both sit and eat with the kids. You can use the weekends for this.
2. Relax, breathe and don’t take it personally
Often as parents we are so worried about our kids eating that we feel rejection and failure when they don’t devour everything we put on their plates. We start to panic before we even sit down about whether or not our kids will like what we have prepared. Relax, breath and stay calm. Your kids are more likely to try new foods if you remain calm. Don’t take it personally if they don’t love a dish you have made, tastes take time to develop. Calmly eat and enjoy the dish in front of them and in time they will follow your lead.
3. Talk about your day
Family meal times are a great opportunity to talk about your day. Share funny stories, teach other family members something interesting you learnt that day, come up with solutions to problems. Create a pleasant atmosphere rather than focusing entirely on how much of what food everyone has eaten.
4. Expect them to eat!
Many parents serve new foods to their kids, expecting they won’t eat it. Or have given up offering certain foods they expect kids to reject. Change your tune, expect your kids to eat things. Continue to offer food in a relaxed environment and one day they will simply start eating it.
5. Forget the begging or bribing
Talk about how the food looks, smells and tastes. Talk about how the food will help them to be their best. Jump high, run fast, better memory, keen eyes for reading. Remember the food politeness rule (see below)!
6. Set a few rules
Expect kids to sit at the table to eat (or to sit at the table and not eat, that’s okay too). Encourage them to stay and chat until others have finished their meals. As they grow, teach them table manners, help them to develop their cutlery skills and teach them the food politeness rule.
Do you eat with your kids? How do you create fun family mealtimes?