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Help Children Thrive on Mealtime Routines

Routines not only make life easier, kids thrive on them. Mealtimes are no exception. Having a routine in place for mealtimes is beneficial for both you and your children. And implementing such routines is easier than you may think!

The Mealtime Routine for Kids

Children who have mealtime routines know what to expect when it is time for family meals. They also are more successful at learning healthy habits, such as washing their hands. You can easily create a mealtime routine by using one of our handy charts, which you can post as a visual reminder to your child - and the rest of the family! Soon, the routine will become a habit.

Here are a few of action items you may want to include in your mealtime routine and on your chart:

  • Before it is time for a meal, you may want to give a 5-minute warning, so that your child can wrap up whatever he is doing and still have time to get to the table. This can help avoid mealtime battles, if your child is in the middle of an activity and doesn't want to stop.
  • Also, before meals, you may want to implement tasks such as setting the table. Once your child has washed his hands, he can set out napkins, utensils, etc.
  • Depending on what food you prepare, there may be tasks that your child can do to help make the family meal. Even if you don't ask that your child help each day, you could make it a weekly part of the routine (e.g., each Monday evening, he helps make dinner). Getting kids to help in the kitchen teaches them how to cook and also helps them to appreciate the time and effort that goes into preparing meals.
  • During meals, it should be an established routine to try at least one bite of everything and to ask to be excused. Children should learn to stay at the table until everyone has finished eating.
  • After the meal is over, it is a good idea to require that your child takes his own dishes to the sink and pushing in his chair when he leaves the table. Elementary age children are ready to take on more responsibility and help with after-dinner clean-up.

To get started on a new or to enforce an established mealtime routine, simply determine the type of mealtime routine you would like. You might want to have a family meeting for this and include your child in the decision-making process. Create a chart that lists all the action items, and then work with your child to start implementing them. Before you know it, you will be well on your way to having family meals that no longer include battles and chaos. In addition, your children will be learning skills that will be helpful, no matter where he has his meals.