Written by Nicola Jaffrey accredited practising dietitian
Anyone with kids will know that mealtimes can be a stressful part of the day, particularly at dinner. Kids can be fussy at the best of times, but throw tiredness, hunger and emotion into the mix and it’s easy to see why this time of day can be so trying.
To reduce the stress at this time of day (for both the parents and kids), it can be really helpful to establish a simple mealtime routine.
“Establish a simple mealtime routine
to reduce stress & fussy eating behaviours.”
A simple mealtime routine involving sitting down to enjoy dinner together is not only beneficial for the kids but is a great opportunity to enjoy family time together.
During this time, you will be able to interact, encourage and praise positive behaviours, listen to your kid’s stories and their unique take on life while they learn how to eat and how to behave. It is also an opportunity to praise and encourage them to trial new foods and demonstrate positive eating behaviours.
Why create a mealtime routine?
There are a number of reasons why establishing a routine around meals can be helpful. Your kids become familiar with what’s involved at mealtime, what they need to do to get ready, and what’s coming next.
While there is no magical way to stop your child going through a fussy eating stage, creating a positive eating environment is the key to helping them manage this and move through this phase as quickly as possible.
What does a mealtime routine look like?
Mealtime routines don’t have to be elaborate, in fact the simpler the better. They should suit your family, be easy to follow and be consistently achieved. Mealtime routines should also have a defined start and finish, the length of which will depend on the age of your children.
An example routine for your child could include:
Stop the games that they are playing and wash their hands.
Help set the table (age dependent).
Eat the meal at the table with the TV, iPad, phones off or away so there are no distractions.
Sit down at the table while the parent/s bring out the food.
Dinner is finished when Mum and Dad have finished dinner (again, this is age dependent).