Strategies for encouraging your child to eat dinner at the table

We work with lots of families who have a big goal of eating dinner as a family, at the table. It’s an awesome goal, and something that is so important to how we interact as a family – it’s part of our culture! But for so many of the children and young adults we work with, there are two hurdles to overcome. Firstly, sitting at the table, and secondly, eating the same meal. Often, there is a lot of anxiety shared between family members around mealtimes and what the child is going to eat.

Here’s our big tip:

If you’re trying to work on getting your child to come to the table and be a part of your family mealtimes – try reducing some of the anxiety for both you and your child – don’t make it about the food. Try inviting your child to the table to join in a game or activity. It might be something like colouring in, doing a puzzle, or even better a family game that everyone joins in!

Once your child (and the rest of your family) are calmer and more relaxed and enjoying being at the table together, then you can try to work on the food component of mealtimes (down the track). In the meantime, enjoy spending time as a family that’s not focused on the stress of eating.

But my child needs to eat?

It’s always a great idea to have a food option for your child ready for them if they choose to eat at the table whilst doing their activity (but It’s not the main attraction). Alternatively, you could choose to provide your child with their meal prior to the family meal whilst you’re preparing/setting up the family meal, or even after they’ve finished their activity at the table.

I’ve also made a video sharing an activity that we use in our family at mealtimes (that you can take when you’re going out too – check out Facebook). As a family, we’ve also played board games, Uno/snap/memory card games and completed puzzles together at the table during mealtimes.

Happy Mealtimes / Family times