Mealtime is a good time to help support your child’s development

Positive eating habits can be learned at the table during meals.

A child can develop a sense of independence during mealtimes. Michigan State University Extension recommends that children are included in meals with adults, and that they are taught to identify their hunger cues. Young children can learn positive habits related to food during mealtimes.

Children’s hunger cues:

  • I’m hungry: A child’s tummy feels empty because they have not eaten enough.
  • Just right: A child has enjoyed some food, but not too much.
  • Full: A child has eaten too much food.

A fun children’s game titled, Tummy Talk! from can help a child to better understand the idea of hunger cues and what they mean.

Tips to help support child development at mealtimes:

  • Do not force children to finish foods to get another food or to be excused from the table
  • Respect a children’s feeling of fullness
  • Include children in helping prepare and plan meals and snacks
  • Teach children to clean up after themselves
  • Be a role model by sitting with children, eating the same foods and talking about the day
  • Let children enjoy and focus on their meal

Children who are able to be responsible for themselves at mealtimes will develop a sense of self. Children who are told what to eat, when to eat it and how much to eat are not able to make their own choices. Giving children the opportunity to choose whether or not they wish to “clean their plate” helps a child develop.

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