Meal times are about more than just the food we eat, but are important for building family relationships. By eating together children practice life skills like taking turns, sharing and basic table manners. They are also more likely to try new foods if everyone is eating them.
Here are some tips to help new families establish good meal time habits:
- Start including your baby at the meal table – by sitting them on your knee. Often babies demand a feed during meal times!
- When babies are older, at around 6 months of age, they will start to show interest in the food that you are eating. This is a good time to introduce them to sold foods.
- As early as possible start to offer your baby home cooked foods – finely mashed vegetables and pureed meat are good foods to start with.
- Teach your toddler how to sit up at the table to eat – this is a great habit to get into for snacks as well.
- Encourage family conversation by having a ‘no technology’ rule at mealtimes. Turn off the TV.
- It is not unusual for children to go through periods when they are picky about the foods that they eat. If you child chooses not to eat the foods you are eating, try to sit together to eat anyway. One way of encouraging children to try new foods is to serve family foods from the middle of the table.
Families are busy and it is not always possible to eat every meal together, but it is worth persisting and trying to find a time during the week when you eat together.