Health and nutrition for young children: Preparing for mealtimes

Help children enjoy mealtimes by incorporating them into comforting place to eat and engage with family.

According to “Nibbles for Health: Nutrition Newsletters for Parents of Young Children, there are positive, easy ways to build family mealtime routines. Consider the following suggestions to incorporate your children into preparing the mealtime space:

Listen to your child when they ask, “Can I help?” or better yet, ask them to help. This will make your child feel important. The great part is that you get to spend quality time with your child. Your child learns even when tasks aren’t done perfectly. Remember, if you do have to correct him/her, do it in a gentle manner and show them instead of harsh correcting, as you want them to feel positive and good about the task.

Depending on the age, there are many ways children can help, including:

  • Having them pick flowers for the table like clover or dandelions from the yard
  • They can make their own placemats or pull out the ones you already have
  • Have them put any pets in another room
  • They can clear and wash the table; have them wash their hands correctly alongside of you
  • They can help set the table
  • Have them help with simple tasks such as tearing up and washing salad greens or vegetables or just putting the bread in a bowl
  • Have them pour the milk or water with your assistance; putting the liquid in a smaller container may be helpful to them
  • They can help clean off the table, even if they only put their own dish, glass or silverware in the sink

If it seems impossible to get the family together for meals because of everyone’s hectic schedule, then try to eat at least one meal per day, like breakfast or lunch. If this does not work, then try for one meal together per week and try to increase from there.

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