Wondering how you can include your toddler in family meals? Eating at the table is a lovely way to bring everyone together and to teach your toddler about healthy eating. Mealtimes may not always be as relaxing as you’d like though!
As children begin eating from the family table, their diets begin to mirror diet patterns of older siblings and adults. Include healthy food choices at meals, and as you and other family members eat these foods, it will increase the likelihood that your child will as well.
Here are some ways to make a family meals with a toddler a success:
- Have the whole family eat at a table at a similar time every day, as much as possible. Even if your toddler has already eaten, sit them at the table, and if they’re showing signs of hunger, offer a selection of finger foods to choose from. Make sure your toddler is sitting up comfortably.
- Toddlers are little copycats so make sure they can see you clearly so you can show them how it’s done. Give them smaller, chopped up portions of what you’re eating on their own plate, so they can eat at the same time as you.
- Praise good behavior (eating, enjoying, trying to use a spoon and fork) and ignore some silly behavior (throwing food around, shouting, banging on the table).
- Talk to them about the meal, its taste, colors, smells, and textures, but don’t focus all your attention on them—it’s a family meal after all.
- Keep mealtimes distraction free, so don’t switch on the TV or have phones on the table during mealtimes.
- Offer a variety of healthy foods for the whole family and try to avoid unhealthy snacks, soft drink and sweet treats. If your toddler doesn’t want to eat what’s offered, don’t offer alternatives and don’t worry if they don’t eat everything.
- When you’re going to a restaurant try and make sure it’s kid-friendly with highchairs, kid sized meals, and kid-friendly plates and cutlery. Try to avoid peak times at the beginning in case your toddler misbehaves. If they have a tantrum take them outside or to a quiet corner for a moment, they could just be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a busy environment.