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With life being so busy it can be tempting to eat when you can, which may involve feeding the children first before sitting down to your own meal separately. There are plenty of reasons to eat meals together as a family:

  • Build family relationships, as sitting down together allows conversation
  • Encourages healthier food choices as children will eat a wider variety of foods by watching others in the family eating
  • Family meals can be used to role-model behaviour and skills such as learning to use spoons, forks or knives and learning to take turns talking while others share stories 
  • Learn more about portion control with homemade meals
  • Eating home cooked meals saves money compared to eating out or takeaway
  • Eating a meal with the family may help you feel less stressed

How to make family meals more enjoyable:

  • Set aside regular times to eat together
  • Reduce the rush by allowing plenty of time for your meal, have a chat and relax
  • Get everyone involved, from choosing the menu helping with preparation. Younger children can wash vegies, stir foods, toss salads and set the table, older children might enjoy cooking a meal for the family
  • Use family meals as a chance to talk. If you child finds it hard to put their day into words, avoid asking Yes/No questions – What was the favourite part of your day? 
  • Reward good behaviour such as eating nicely, good manners and trying new foods with praise, avoid using food as bribes or punishment
  • Be creative with meal times to create some excitement, for example healthy pancakes for breakfast, a picnic lunch in the park or back yard or having special guests over for dinner
  • Turn off the TV and keep other devices out of reach. This will help reduce any distractions 
  • Keep meal times fun and positive - Avoid arguments over food or forcing your child to eat everything on their plate.

For more information see Eating family meals with toddler (Raising Children Network).