Benefits of family mealtime

  • Routine family meals give children a sense of stability, encourage communication and have health benefits.
  • A shared family meal doesn’t always have to mean dinner. Breakfast or snacktime together can be just as good.
  • Eliminate distractions at mealtime such as television and cell phones.
  • Letting your Preschooler help prepare meals gives them a sense of ownership and helps encourage them to stay at the table throughout the meal.

Your Preschooler is becoming more independent as the days go and wants to do certain things on his own terms. But he also likes the idea of being part of the family.

No matter what size your family, it’s important to make family meals together a priority. This time gives you a good chance to promote good nutrition, help establish healthy eating habits and create a stronger relationship within the family.

What mealtime means to your Preschooler

Research suggests that having consistent family meals can make a world of difference. Your Preschooler is more likely to have a healthy relationship with food, enjoy healthier foods and less likely to be overweight.

Reasons to make family meal a priority:

  • Consistent family meals can create feelings of closeness and comfort. Even when mealtimes feel hectic or disorganized, simply knowing that everyone will come together at a regular time may give your child a sense of stability.
  • The quality of a family meal is just as important as how often you sit down together. Family meals seem to be one of the best times for children and parents to communicate. 
    • To encourage talking at the table, eliminate distractions by turning off cell phones and TVs while at the table. 
    • Set a goal to have regular family meals at least three times (but, ideally five times) per week.
  • Most research shows improvement in child outcomes when a family has at least three family meals each week. Three dinners together isn’t always possible, but other meals and snacks shared together still count!

Good to know

Children with consistent family meals are less likely to be overweight and have healthier eating habits.

Hands-on in the kitchen!

Children as young as two years old can help you with preparing a family meal. Planning meals that give your Preschooler a chance to help can teach basic skills and gives a sense of ownership. Imagine how proud your Preschooler will be when he eats a meal that he helped make!

Help bring your child into the mix by having him:

  • Help you pull leaves off fresh herbs
    • Let him see how fresh basil becomes a pesto sauce 
  • Peel, mash or sprinkle ingredients 
    • Mash soft bananas with a fork for banana bread 
    • Sprinkle grated cheese over a casserole before it goes in the oven 
  • Assemble his own meal
    • Put together his tacos or top soup with cheese or diced veggies

Keeping their attention at the table 

Young children have a short attention span, so have realistic expectations of how long your child will keep still. Try these ideas to help them stay focused:

  • Occasionally introduce a fun idea, like everyone wearing pajamas to the dinner table.
  • Children who help prepare the meal may want to stay at the table longer so others can enjoy what they made.
  • Children are prone to wander. Check his fullness cues — if he’s full and wants to leave the table early, remove his plate and encourage him to stay by engaging him in conversation.
  • Try breaking up the meal in courses like they might be served at a restaurant.  If the soup is served first and he knows macaroni and cheese is coming next, it may encourage him to be patient and stay at the table.
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