Good nutrition is central to eating but it is not the only element to the family meal. Family meals also nourish the emotional needs of a child. Meals provide a time to experience social interactions, learn table manners, and experience family values.
Parents can halt dinner time battles by using proactive language, encouraging self-feeding skills, and offering food sensory exploration opportunities.
To often, parents spend most of their time concentrating on nutrition by measuring calories and counting vegetable intake. I know this very well as a dietitian. In fact, I was guilty a couple years ago. I even kept a food journal of my children! I changed my approached when I realized it was broken. First, I relaxed. Then I began to shift my focus to the feeding environment creating no fuss meals.
Create a Calm Meal without the Fuss
1| DON’T FIGHT OVER FOOD
Mealtimes are not a time to nag your child to eat. The bottom line, children will eat when they are hungry. Meals offer the best time for family interactions. The communication chosen at the meal can either nourish the mind and spirit or it can contribute to a stressful meal. If a child feels pressured to eat, they will be more apt to refuse the food and eat less nutrients over time.
2| INCLUDE IN TABLE TALK
The family meal offers an opportunity to teach social skills such as: table manners, how to take turns, and be considerate for others. If children are included in the conversation, they learn to develop an interest in other people and respect a variety of opinions.
3| Meals Provide a SENSE OF BELONGING
Sitting at a table surrounded by family gives a child the sense of community. Family meals represent the unity of family. It is a time to learn about family traditions bringing the family closer to family roots, traditions, and culture.
4| SENSORY EXPLORATION is Key
Children love to explore the environment using their eyes, nose, mouth, hands, and ears. Young children will pat, smear, taste, smell, spill, and poke their food. A child will refuse food if they do not like they way it looks, smells, or feels. Let them refuse- it is ok. Eventually their curiosity will get the best of them and they will be eager to try it. Our Teaching Taste Toolkit has 10 sensory exploration activities you can do in your home. Get instant access below!