Creating a Shared Experience at the Meal and Snack Table
In the midst of the holidays, socializing around the dinner table may be more of a mainstay. However, during the hustle and bustle of the season, this may be easily forgotten as well. The importance of sharing meals together reaches beyond the table itself, and offers a variety of benefits to children and adults. Take some time to think about the benefits that you observe while sharing a meal with the children at your center.
- Children are always watching and learning. Meals provide an opportunity to serve as a role model for healthy eating. Adults can help model eating appropriate portions of foods, tasting new foods, or listening to body cues and stopping when feeling full.
- A positive eating environment is necessary to make meal time something for children to look forward to. Encourage courtesy at the table and other social manners that are valued in society. This is a great time to practice good manners, such as saying “please” and “thank you,” no elbows on the table, not talking with a mouth full of food, using silverware to eat food, chew with mouth closed, and sit still in the chair.
- Meal and snack times give regular structure and routine to a child’s day. Imagine if “meal time” was spread throughout the entire day, resulting in more grazing than actual sit-down meals. Do you think it would result in a more chaotic environment and the establishment of unhealthy eating habits?
- Sharing a meal provides an experience that touches all of our senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and listening to laughter or conversation. Try to take in all of the sights, sounds, smells, flavors, and textures at the next meal time.
- There may not be time set out of every day to hear what the children are thinking, or what they spend their time at home doing, however they may be eager to share. Meal or snack time may be a good opportunity for sharing time. Having conversations at mealtime increases a child’s vocabulary.
- Finally, consider cleaning up the meal time together. Children can help clear their places at the table. If using disposable dishes or silverware, allow the child to dispose of it.
Help influence children to develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime, simply by providing a positive meal and snack time environment and continuing to share a meal with them.
Take some time to browse through the “Let’s Move” kid-friendly meals resource: