I’m a big believer that eating together as a family and especially parents who are seen to cook and prepare food helps with healthy eating habits. Food is a nurturing parenting discipline and kids learn through example. My family always instilled the importance of meal time when I was growing up and it wasn’t until I had my own children that I realised the absolute necessity of this. Eating together has also been scientifically proven to promote greater happiness within the family unit, manage portion control and boost grades. Helping mom out in the kitchen is also a learning curve for all kids which can lay the foundations for their culinary, social and nutritional skills in later life.
Leading by example. It is sadly the case that many eating disorders including Obesity and Anorexia stem not only from unhealthy habits of parents but also from not eating wholesome meals together as a family. Showing kids through example on how to create delicious, healthy meals will no doubt guide them in the right direction. A child seeing his or her parent preparing meals constructs the foundations for a healthy relationship with food and nutrition.
Eating together promotes communication skills. Children who have meals in front of the Television or at different times from their parents often don’t get the chance to engage in conversation on an adult level or learning the richness of vocabulary in adult conversation. This is not only detrimental to the communication within the family unit, as the dinner table is often a safe ground for talking through issues at school and outside of school, but can also stunt social development.
Sitting down for dinner at a set time every evening also creates a sense of routine and stability for children. Children are confronted with change on a daily basis, which is essential for character development but can also be quite stressful. Offering routines and traditions like eating together at a set time can make life a little easier, more secure and reduce anxiety. This will allow them to be able to structure their own lives later on.
Everyday family rituals can build security, improve connection and cooperation.
Traditional Table Setting Guide
Elbows Off The Table – Those pesky little elbows and any other body parts should stay off the dinning room table.
Wait – Children should be taught to wait until everyone is seated at the table and has been served their food before they start eating
Utensils – Children should always use the appropriate utensils for their food, never using their hands. Unless, of course it’s bread, pizza or any other finger friendly foods.
Eating Utensil Etiquette: There are two style methods for which you can teach your child to use their knife and fork. The “American” style, where the knife is initially held in the right hand and the fork in the left while cutting food, then putting the knife down and switching your fork to your right hand to eat. The fork is cradled like a spoon and used to scoop food from the plate with the tines up. Even though this is called “American” style, it did however, originate in Europe.
The “European” style, where the fork stays in the left hand with the tines down and the knife in the right. Also referred to as the “hidden handle” because the utensils handles are hidden by the palm of the hand, while help by the thumb and forefinger.
Please and Thank You – Teach your child the importance of using please and thank you when at the table. Using please when politely asking for food to be passed. “Please pass the pasta,” instead of reaching over their neighbors plate. To show appreciation, children should always thank the host or whomever cooked the meal.
Chewing – Children should always chew with their mouth closed and never speak with food in their mouth. Sometimes give a friendly reminder to your child to hold on to their thought until their food has been swallowed.
Talking Points – Encourage your children to participate in conversation at the table, but teach your child it’s rude to interrupt. They should know sometimes they need to wait their turn to speak or say, “Excuse me.”
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Bib Set, Terracotta, Marie-Chantal Children
Bib Set, Dusty Teal, Marie-Chantal Children