3 tips for encouraging a fun family mealtime environment through play

By : TeamNutrition

Mealtime can sometimes turn into a fight, especially with younger children. So how do we make this special family time enjoyable for everyone? Here are 3 tips for saying goodbye to dinnertime chaos!

1- Incorporate a Transitional Activity

The transitional activity is definitely a must in the family routine! It's a short activity to have our child do before eating. Lasting about 5 minutes, it allows the child to make a pleasant and supervised transition between the activity he is doing and the meal to come. The activity can vary depending on the child: it can be jumping jacks (for those who have energy to spare) or a time to relax under a blanket (for our more sensitive ones), as well as blowing bubbles! 

Why is this necessary? Routine is reassuring for children. By having a clear, pre-established routine around meals, unpredictability is removed. Children are then more likely to conform to family expectations at mealtimes, while being more curious to try new foods!

2- Dare to Play Family Games at Mealtime

When eating together as a family, there can be a tendency to comment frequently on what the children put in their mouths. By constantly focusing on the food being eaten, it is very likely that the child will feel pressure to eat. To avoid this unintentional table pressure on our part, it is best to use this time as a family to talk about the good weather or highlight accomplishments of the day. Why not even incorporate a board game made specifically to be played while eating?

Psst: While the phrase "Don't play with your food!" is a popular one, it's important to remember that children may need several exposures to a food before they feel it's safe to put it in their mouths. "Playing" with the food can be a way to gradually expose themselves to it, so we must be patient with them. As long as the meatballs don't fly off the ceiling, everything is fine!

3- Plan Fun Meals

At a young age, the developmental stage of children means that they are mainly attracted to the textures and colours of food. To satisfy this curiosity, what better way than to plan some funny looking meals. Here are some ideas:

  • Special drinks, like magic potions
  • Themed festive meals: Christmas, Valentine's Day, Halloween
  • Sandwiches in the shape of animals
  • Food colouring added to a frequently eaten meal

But planning isn't just a parent's job, kids can plan too! Why not ask them what they would like to eat next week or let them choose between 2 snacks? This way, children can gradually develop their food autonomy.

Psst: To better plan our meals, why not use a family planner? It saves money and time, allowing us to spend more time together as a family!

This article was written by the nutritionists and dietitians of TeamNutrition. Their team offers nutrition counselling in person and virtually across Canada.

To learn more about possible approaches to family nutrition, visit their KoalaPro online portal or book an appointment with a registered dietitian.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published