Eating together as a family in a positive and engaging environment is the perfect opportunity for modelling and reinforcing desirable eating behaviours. Kids need support and guidance as they develop healthy eating habits, and the more relaxed and enjoyable mealtime is, the better the experience for everyone.
Family mealtimes are important, but we sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves. We find reasons why family mealtimes won’t work – we’re too busy, the kids are too tired or the kitchen table is covered with paperwork.
A happy, healthy mealtime doesn’t have to be complicated or lengthy. You need to create a positive environment that works for your family lifestyle and what your family members enjoy.
It doesn’t have to be sitting down for a roast at 6pm with the whole family every night. For most families, work and other activities dictate our schedule, and it’s not always possible to eat together. Young kids may eat too early for the parents to join in, older kids may have sports practice interfering with normal meal times, or one parent may finish work too late for a family meal.
When it comes to creating positive mealtimes, do what you can and don’t worry about the rest. Little things done everyday can make a big difference!
Here are some tips for making the most of mealtimes:
- Have as many meals with the whole family as possible. If it’s only on weekends, make the most of it!
- Sit down at the table with your kids even if you’re not eating – forget about the chores for a little while
- Even if you can only spend 10 minutes sitting with your child while they are eating, give them your full attention – talk, smile, sing, play a talking game or tell stories
- If you have more than one child, have them eat at the same time
- Be flexible with mealtime – consider eating a little earlier or later if it can accommodate everyone
- Turn off the TV! Get rid of distractions and toys, and focus on sharing stories, relaxing and enjoying the food. (Not sure what to talk about? Try these 30 mealtime conversation starters!)
- Make it nice. Take a few minutes to set the table and plate up nicely. Dim the lights and add soft music every now and then
- Break the routine – have a picnic in the lounge room or eat in your pyjamas!
When eating as a family or supporting your child while they eat, quality is more important than quantity. Remember that mealtime is a time to eat and spend time with each other, so find little things you can do to make mealtimes fun, engaging and relaxed.