March 23, 2018
Pass the Peas!
Family style dining helps little learners grow and thrive
Sitting down for a meal — together as a family — can feel like a luxury when we are balancing the needs and schedules of every family member. But family meals don’t have to be fancy. And they don’t have to look like a television show from the 1950s. Families are dynamic and ever-changing, and no two families are alike. But there are many benefits to slowing down the pace for enjoying a meal together. Plus, your family can come up with its very own special way to do it.
What is family style dining?
Eating family style isn’t just about getting together (though that’s a very positive practice!) It’s about passing food, serving ourselves from the same big bowl and taking to each other. Something as small as serving food from bowls on the table — instead of the stove — can have a big impact for your little learner.
Kids can learn social and emotional skills
Saying, “sweetie, can you please pass the bread?” shows your little helper what polite requests look like. Family-style meals also slow the pace and create a space for little ones to take their time. They do all that while trying new things and learning table manners.
Learning about health is another perk of family style meals
You can show what serving sizes look for little eaters and big eaters too. You can demonstrate what kinds of foods are healthy and which ones are just for joy. By supporting a relaxing and calm meal time, you can encourage a lifetime of healthy eating behaviors.
Kid-friendly tableware encourages motor development
Learning to use forks can improve their ability to color, write and work with small objects over time. Sturdy bowls and serving spoons also help children feel like they are part of the experience of serving dinner. Bowls with wide lips are easy for children to pass food at the table.
Will this approach help with dinner power struggles?
In short, the answer to that is a solid maybe. When children see family members try new foods, they are more likely to try them as well. Children also gain independence as they scoop, use tongs and pour their own drinks. It gives them a sense of control that might inspire them to experiment with new foods!
Family style is about connection
To make the best out of dinner time, focus on setting up a good experience for children and grown-ups. Avoid distractions, like televisions, phones or other screens. Be in the moment. Without distractions, your little learner can build their vocabulary as you ask them to share with you what they think about the food. “Are these potatoes crunchy or smooth?” “Where do you think these veggies come from?”
Worried about the mess?
When grown-ups are prepared for the inevitable spills and mishaps everyone has more fun! Don’t loose your cool over spilled milk, just keep paper towels handy and enjoy your meal. After all, cleaning up together in a good mood gets children helping and being a part of problem-solving.