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We all know that life gets very busy, and it can be hard to maintain a regular routine. It's important, however, that families  spend time together, and family meal times are especially important.

Eating together as a family: 

  • encourages conversation and helps to build family relationships.  

  • supports healthier food choices, because children will eat a wider variety of foods by copying what others in the family eat. 

  • provides an opportunity to role-model behaviour and skills, such as how to use a spoon, knife and fork, how to take turns talking, and what portion-size is appropriate.  

  • saves money, compared to eating out or takeaway. 

  • can increase the sense of belonging and reduce stress. 

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How to make family meals more enjoyable 

  • Set aside regular times to eat together 

  • Reduce the rush by allowing plenty of time to have a chat and relax during your meal  

  • Get everyone involved, from choosing the menu to 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 your child finds it hard to put their day into words, avoid asking Yes/No questions. Try questions like: ‘what was the favourite part of your day?’  

  • Reward good behaviour, such as eating nicely, good manners and trying new foods, but avoid using food as a bribe or punishment. 

  • Make meal times exciting by, for example, cooking healthy pancakes for breakfast, having a picnic lunch in the park or backyard, or inviting special guests  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). 

Related pages  

Trying new foods 

Fussy eating 

Bonding and Socialising for Toddlers