Family meals allow your preschooler to focus on the task of eating, and the time spent together gives you a chance to be a good example with eating habits. Here are some suggestions from experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will make this process easier.
Remember, it takes a little work to bring everyone together for meals. But it's worth it, and the whole family eats better.
- Start eating meals together as a family when your kids are young. This way, it becomes a habit.
- Plan when you will eat together as a family. Write it on your calendar.
- You may not be able to eat together every day, but try to have family meals most days of the week.
How to Make Family Meals Enjoyable
- Focus on the meal and each other.
- Turn off the television. Take phone calls or texts later.
- Talk about fun and happy things. Try to make meals a stress-free time.
- Encourage your child to try different foods. But don't lecture or force your child to eat.
- Involve your child in conversation. Ask questions like:
- What made you feel really happy today?
- What did you have to eat at lunch today?
- What's your favorite veggie? Why?
- Tell me one thing you learned today.
- What made you laugh today?
Have Your Child Help You Get Ready to Eat
Depending on their age, your child may be able to:
- Help set the table
- Put pets, toys or books in another room
- Turn off the TV
- Pour milk (with help)
- Put down place mats
- Hand out napkins and silverware
- Pick flowers for the table
- Clear the table
- Wipe the table
Ideas for Fast Family Meals
- Cook it fast on busy nights. Try stir-fried meat and vegetables, quick soups, sandwiches or quesadillas.
- Save time by doing some tasks the day before. Wash and cut vegetables or make a fruit salad. Cook lean ground beef or turkey for burritos or chili. Store everything in the fridge until ready to use.
- Search online for quick, tasty recipes that don't cost a lot to make.