Cook together, eat together
Children learn about cooking by helping parents in the kitchen. Meal preparation time is a great opportunity to have conversations with your children.
Sharing food and conversation around the table are important for children. Meals that are eaten together provide a time to enjoy being with other family members and to learn about food. Turning off the TV, phones, and other media and tuning into each other at mealtime can be positive for both children and adults. Many families find this time to be one of the few times they are together and have time to find out what’s going on with each other.
Some ideas to help encourage children to eat at the table, eat what’s offered at the table, and enjoy family time include:
- Plan regular mealtimes that allow family members to eat together. If your family has different schedules that make it difficult, try to set a weekly meal that you all share together.
- Allow children to choose their favorite TV programs to watch outside of family mealtimes.
- Let children know that you are willing to change a mealtime occasionally to let them watch a special program.
- Spark your children’s interest in meals by including them in planning and preparing meals.
- Let children help set the table with colorful plates and decorations to make mealtime fun.
- Try to make mealtime pleasant and relaxed. Be patient and casual, and set a good example by saying positive things about food; encouraging friendly conversations; and practicing good manners.
- Encourage children to eat what’s on the table, but also, let them decide what they eat and how much.
Young and older children helping with various tasks while you are preparing meals increases their interest in food and makes getting them to try new foods easier. It’s also the first step to learning how to cook – watching you and helping you over and over again.
Keeping children busy helping you in the kitchen opens up opportunities to talk to them and have them share with you. You’ll learn more about what they are doing with their friends and what is going on in school and other areas of their lives. You’ll have opportunities to talk about family values, upcoming events and activities, and share stories and experiences.