12 tips for peaceful family mealtimes
I used to dread mealtimes. When you have a child who is a picky eater, it is difficult. You’re wondering if they will eat what you’ve spent time and money on preparing, and worried about their nutrition and health. And often, kids are less able to eat or try new foods because of this tension. It’s one of those vicious circles.
It was helpful to our family to start using an approach called the Division of Responsibility (DOR), which considers what food is served and how it is served. We have explained more about the Division of Responsibility in a previous post. But we’ve found there are some other tricks you can try in addition to DOR, to make mealtimes a more pleasant experience for the whole family, and it might even help the kids to eat more too!
Here’s some ideas:
Before the meal:
- Have a regular schedule for mealtimes and try to have all of the family there if, or when, you can.
- Have the kids help cook and serve, and thank them for their part in preparing the meal.
- Try a theme e.g. food from a certain country and learn more about the country before you eat.
- Dress up for dinner – our kids love putting their ‘smart’ clothes on like it’s a special occasion, or you could try a costume or a funny hat, so long as it’s not too much distraction from actually eating!
- Get creative with the presentation, e.g. you could use cookie cutters to make cute shapes with your child.
- Have a change occasionally and plan a picnic in the garden or on the living room floor.
- Invite a friend or relative for dinner and have the kids help think about what they would like and prepare a special meal for them.
During the meal:
- Remove screens and phones from the dinner table if you can (some therapists do say it’s ok in extreme cases, so it’s best to talk with a health professional about this if your child is reliant on screens to eat).
- Play some music that you all like – we found that for us it needs to be quite slow music, otherwise the kids just want to get up and dance!
- Take turns to talk about your day, or share some news. We like to use – “one thing you’re grateful for, one thing you’re happy about and one thing you’re looking forward to”.
- Encourage good manners by modelling this yourself.
- Talk about the food using neutral describing words like “my peas are green, they can roll across my plate”, “how do your potatoes feel, are they smooth or bumpy?”.
We’d love to hear what you do to make mealtimes more peaceful and even fun?!