Strengthen family bonds with enjoyable meals. Learn 6 ways to make mealtime fun engaging for the whole family. Read now for happy mealtimes!
1. Set aside regular times to eat together
When you put these times in your weekly schedule, you’re all more likely to be there. Having your meal at a table, with the television and phones turned off, can make this time even more special.
2. Reduce the rush
If you allow around 20-30 minutes for family meals, it gives your children plenty of time to eat. They’ll have the chance to try new foods and develop good eating habits. This also gives you time to relax, chat and enjoy your family.
If you have a toddler who finds it hard to sit still for 20 minutes, let him move around a bit. But it’s best to let your toddler eat only when he’s sitting at the table.
3. Get everyone involved
Involving your children in choosing and preparing family meals increases the chance that they’ll eat it. It can also encourage fussy eaters to try new food.
Even young children can help with preparing family meals. For example, they can wash fruit and vegies, or toss salads. They can also help by setting the table and even decorating it with flowers.
Older children and teenagers might enjoy finding new recipes and cooking meals for the family – for example, once a week or fortnight. This helps share the responsibility for meal preparation and gives your child the chance to learn to cook.
4. Use family meals as a chance to talk
Family meals can be a great way to keep up with what everyone is doing. But sometimes children can find it hard to put their days into words. If this sounds like your child, it can help to ask your child questions that need more than a yes-or-no answer. For example, ‘Tell me one great thing that happened at school today’.
Another idea might be for everyone to take turns sharing something good and bad about their day. This way your child won’t feel like she’s being put on the spot.
But if your child really doesn’t want to talk, it’s best not to push too hard or bring up touchy subjects. It’s good for your child just to be with your family and listen to other people talking. The idea is to make mealtimes enjoyable and social.
5. Reward good behaviour
When your younger children are eating nicely, using good manners and trying different foods, try to reward them with some descriptive praise. Tell them what they’re doing well. You might even want to use a reward chart to reward good behaviour.
Avoid using food as punishment or bribes. For example, it isn’t a good idea to say, ‘If you eat your broccoli, you can have some ice-cream for dessert’. This can make your child more interested in treats than healthy foods.
6. Be creative with mealtimes
When you have the time and opportunity, having some fun with mealtimes can give the whole family something to look forward to. For example, on a weekend you might:
- have a picnic at the park, in your backyard or on the lounge room floor
- invite a special guest over for dinner, like a friend, grandparent or neighbour.
- create a meal with a theme – for example, food from a country with a language your child is learning at school.