Health and nutrition for young children: Mealtimes

Help children enjoy mealtimes by creating a safe, hazard-free, comforting place to eat and engage with family.

Nibbles for Health: Nutrition Newsletters for Parents of Young Children” explains that parents and caregivers can help children enjoy and behave during mealtimes by creating a safe space in which children can eat.

Parents should try to offer a nurturing environment in which children can eat their meals. A quiet, even-paced space enables everyone at the table to be relaxed. Meal time should incorporate talking time that includes children. Rules like “no phones or TV” during that time and “always eat at the table” with no running around with the food ensures that this time is respected and enjoyed by all.

Parents should also take steps to keep children comfortable and safe from injury when the family sits down to eat. Children should never be left alone when they eat, and having a comfortable child-size chair and easy-to-hold, child-size utensils and cups will make mealtimes run more smoothly.

Be aware of foods that can cause choking hazards. With children under the age of 4, skip hard foods such as popcorn, grapes, nuts and hard candy among others. Always check out the food yourself to see if it can be chewed easily. Slice their food into small stripes, teaching children to take small bites and chew slowly before swallowing to prevent choking. Also be careful with sticky foods such as peanut butter; spread it in a thin layer on bread or crackers to ensure the child’s safety.

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