Meal times are a great opportunity to have some quality time together as a family around the table without the distraction of the TV, tablets or phones. Limiting screen time in this way shows your child that time spent talking and listening to them is important to you.
Learning from others
Children learn by watching and copying the behaviours they see, whether that’s from parents, siblings or other children at nursery or pre-school. Mealtimes are great for modelling good manners and social skills. Some children become fussy eaters at around two or three years of age, and eating together can help nip this in the bud.
It’s good to talk
Hearing language is really important for children’s speech and language development, and having conversations at mealtimes provide opportunities for them to practice their language skills.
You can support your child’s developing speech by offering them a choice of foods on the table so they the opportunity to say the word. For example, ‘Would you like peas or carrots first?’. If they get a sound wrong, just repeat it back correctly.
Use mealtimes to start conversations, and encourage your child to express their thoughts and feelings, likes and dislikes.
Time for a game or two
Games are a fun way to encourage kids to practice talking. Here are some examples to get you started:
Best and Worst: A great conversation starter. Simply take turns to share the best and worst things that happened during the day.
You could also share one thing (however small), that you are grateful for.
I Spy: It’s not just for car trips! The ‘I Spy’ game is a great way to engage kids at the dinner table, and reinforce their letters/sounds at the same time.
Plan Your Dream Holiday: Sitting around the table is a great place to brainstorm a family adventure, whether it’s a trip to the local park for a picnic or a fantasy holiday. This is a great way to spark the imagination.
If you’re struggling with family mealtimes, we’ve got more advice to make them a happier experience for all of you.
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.
Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.
Leicester City: text 07520 615381
Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382