PRESCHOOLERS MEAL TIMES: how to make it a positive experience to learn!
Mealtimes are more than just feeding your child; they are a chance to learn socialization, healthy eating habits, independence, and table manners. Children’s eating habits for the rest of their life is an important phenomenon in their growth and development, it’s often the teachers who shape up the healthy eating habit of preschoolers in their early-childhood, which can benefit the parents too.
So what does a positive mealtime look like?
To begin with, serve meals family-style, and try to follow consistent times for each meal. Children need predictable patterns. Knowing when to expect breakfast, lunch and snacks helps set the stage for their day. A routine of washing their hands, setting the table, and knowing what to expect during the mealtime will make the meal run more smoothly. When children use child-sized utensils, cups, plates, and serving dishes, it sets them up for success when serving themselves. I know it can get messy for children to serve themselves, but think of this as a learning experience. Sometimes a mess is going to happen while learning. Just keep a positive attitude about it.
During mealtime, sit with your children, and interact with them. Talk about the food you are eating. Help the children learn to serve themselves. Take the chance to introduce table manners. All of these actions help children learn how to socialize during the mealtime. You set the tone for the entire meal. If you are rushed and stressed about the meal, the children will feel the same way. Encourage healthy eating habits and manners by modeling them for your children.
Quick suggestions to start making mealtimes a more positive experience
TAKE YOUR CHILDREN HELP
Assign the children’s jobs, such as cleaning and setting the table. This allows them to feel more engaged about the mealtime, and it will be less work for you.
APPEALING FOODS ATTACKS CHILD ATTENTION
Think about the texture, color, and temperature of the foods. Try to offer a variety of colors to make the meal more interesting. Serve familiar foods along with something new.
LET CHILDREN PILOT THE MEALTIME
Remember – you set the mealtime scene and offer healthy foods. Children should have the freedom to choose what they eat and how much. Don’t buy into the clean plate club. Children are very good at self-regulating how much food they need. However, you can encourage them to try new foods.
STARTING WITH A SMALL
Changing the way you serve your meals can be scary, but start small. Perhaps you begin by starting a routine before the meal, or just have the children serve themselves the fruit or vegetable. You do not have to change everything overnight. Set goals and slowly integrate a positive, family-style dining routine into your day.