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Our Blog: November 20th, 2013

5 Steps to Eating Together as a Family: How Your Little One Can Help, from Prep to Plate

Regular family mealtimes have proven benefits such as better manners for the kids and healthier meals for the whole family. But did you know family mealtime can also help your child gain communication skills, improved learning, and problem-solving abilities? Regular family meals also build closer relationships among family members, setting a trusting foundation for when things can get rocky during the teen years to come. But with busy lives, it’s difficult to figure out how to involve the kiddos in the kitchen. Here are my tips:

  1.  Plan it – Brainstorm recipes with your child, with cookbooks and photos to help generate menus. Then make a child-friendly grocery list together, adding pictures of ingredients so your little chef can be in charge of the list at the store.
  2. Secure it –The kitchen’s danger zones can be managed by constantly observing a few rules. Use child-safe stepping stools placed far from the stove, store sharp implements and caustic items out of reach, and always keep a close eye on little helpers. I always turn off my phone to help maximize my attention – and stay focused on safety.
  3. Wash it – Little ones love water, so throw some towels on the floor, stand with them at the sink – and have fun! Let them help prep the kitchen by washing up kid-safe dishes. Have them rinse the greens, fill veggie or pasta cooking pots with water, and wipe down the table with a damp sponge. Make sure to scrub out the sink ahead of time to prevent germs from contaminating your produce, since your little chef is likely to dump it in the sink – and beyond. And did anybody say “salad spinner”? That’s a job tailor-made for a little kiddo!
  4. Name it – And count it! Ask your child to count out one potato for each person in the family, and help him measure and pour ingredients. Have him tell you the names of each item you bought from the store as you unpack. Introduce new fruits and veggies with fanfare – the more involved your child is in the preparation of a dish, the more likely he is to try it.
  5. Tidy it – Even young children can help clear the table. Consistently expect your child to help out from an early age. Child-sized brooms and dustpans are always a big hit with this crowd, too. Soon, you’ll have a real helper on your hands! Here are 20 more chores your little one can tackle, too.

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Childtime believes in the merits of sharing meals, too! That’s why we involve our students in each mealtime, which teaches manners, nutrition, and sharing along the way. How do YOU involve your children in family mealtimes? 

About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.

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