With the limitations of living in lockdown, and parents trying to juggle childcare, teaching, and work – family mealtimes can be even more challenging at this time.
In partnership with Munchy Play®, registered dietitian and child nutritionist Dr Frankie Phillips, has put together her top tips for creating a happy mealtime environment for families, using proven strategies.
Between the ages of 18 months and four years old, children discover their independence and personality. With this comes a desire to explore the world around them, as they develop fine motor and thinking skills. But, this can be particularly challenging at mealtimes if toddlers and pre-schoolers refuse to sit still.
Parents tend to worry about nutrition, and rightly so, as nutrition is important for growth and development in children. But, mealtimes are so much more than just about food, it’s about the whole social occasion and sensory experience too.
Play with food
Making the dining table an enjoyable place to be, is the best way to get kids to the table and keep them there. If they’re prone to running off to play with toys, or won’t sit still, then you can try bringing their favourite toys to them. It’s crucial for children to learn to sit at a table from a young age, not just for table manners, but to enjoy the experience of sharing a meal with family and friends. One of my daughters, for instance, feeds her dollies sitting next to her at teatimes, which I encourage because she looks forward to eating and role play helps with social development. Play games, have fun, touch and smell foods to help familiarise, play ‘here comes the Choo-Choo train’ if younger ones need a bit of help trying something new – whatever it takes to make them feel settled and happy. It’s all about creating positive associations around mealtimes!
Pick not picky
If your child is made to feel involved in the whole process, from choosing their food and helping to prepare it to picking their tableware, they’re far more likely to develop a healthy approach to food and eating. Offering a choice of vegetables for instance, gives them some autonomy and helps them feel in control. A great way to get little ones excited about mealtimes, is to kit them out with new tableware. Much like a new toy – a new plate or a new cup is very exciting for a young child, especially if they’re involved in choosing it themselves. Opt for fun designs, with themes your child is interested in, so they’ll want to use them time and again. If they have a favourite item, then it’s fine to take it to eat out with you too, if that helps.
Families that dine together, tend to have better eating habits, such as consuming more vegetables. However, sitting together as a family can be hard with busy working schedules and different eating times. There is, however, an exception – the start of the day. This is the one time that families can dine together, even if it means getting up a little earlier than usual. For those with a creative streak, food art has become a popular way to entice little ones to the table. So why not make it your morning ritual, to get them to decorate their porridge, yoghurt or toast with a selection of fruit. For inspiration, check out #FoodArt on Instagram!
Made in Britain, the exclusive Munchyplay collection is now available on Amazon, and munchyplay.com retailing at £14.50. To stay up to date with the latest news and product launches, please visit: munchyplay.com and follow @munchyplay on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.