Creating an enjoyable mealtime routine
At Cooee, we know that children love routines and consistency. Sometimes the dinner table can be tough, so we wanted to share a few thoughts about how to structure the steps around meal time – to help create the perfect environment for food exploration.
Routines are an excellent way to ensure a child knows exactly what to expect. This can help a child to feel more in control of situations, especially situations that might be more stressful- like trying a new type of food!
Having a good mealtime routine in place at home can help to reduce the stress that families often feel around food.
We want mealtimes to be a time that our families can spend quality time together, talk about their days and enjoy themselves.
7 steps to creating your own mealtime routines
- Timers can be excellent ways of counting down to an event. If you find that you have trouble getting your child away from their toys to sit at the table, give this a try. Set a countdown timer 5 minutes before your mealtime. This way, your child will have time to prepare themselves to put away their toys and get ready for their meal.
- Once the timer goes off, get everyone to wash their hands together. Not only is this great for hygiene, it also gives your child extra time to prepare themselves for the meal that is coming.
- Encourage everyone to help with setting the table. Again this gives your child the chance to prepare for eating before actually having the food in front of them.
- Time to eat! Encourage everyone to sit at the table together. Use boxes/old phone books to ensure your children’s feet are supported when they are sitting at the table.
- If you are introducing a new type of food, take turns going around the table and talking about what it looks like, smells like, feels like and tastes like.
- If your child is not ready to eat the new food yet, that is okay! Encourage them to get used to the way it looks and smells. If they feel comfortable doing so, encourage them to play with it (make a funny face, see if you can draw with it, etc).
- Once everyone has finished with their meals, encourage your child to help you to clear the table and to throw out/put away any unwanted food. This is an important step of a mealtime routine as it helps to signal that the meal has come to an end. It can be particularly helpful if your child has tried a new food that they are not yet comfortable with. By throwing the food away it can reduce the feeling of stress your child might have. Don’t be discouraged though, children often need multiple exposures to a new food before they feel comfortable eating them.
We hope these steps help you to create a mealtime routine that works for your family. Mealtimes should be an enjoyable time for everyone involved! For more information about how Speech Pathology can help with feeding and fussy eaters – get in touch!