Family meals with toddlers
Help your toddler learn communication skills that make dinner time a great experience for the whole family
At a glance
Mealtimes are great opportunities to develop your toddler’s communication, social and behavioural skills
Small portions of a variety of healthy foods can help with fussiness
If your toddler has a tantrum at the table, try not to worry too much
If you're eating out, look for high chairs and book an early table to make eating out easier
Mealtimes are a wonderful opportunity for the family to sit together and bond. But they are important for developing skills and building positive eating habits too. These include:
- Communication skills – At this age, toddlers are little mimics and eating together is a good chance to practice talking
- Social skills – Teach your little one about table manners how to behave at the table before venturing out to eat
- Motor skills – Toddlers watch you using cutlery and will try to copy
And remember mealtimes together should be fun. So embrace the mess and enjoy your many meals together.
"His table manners are even better than his dad’s now."
Dealing with a picky eater
Every toddler is different and will eat what’s right for their needs. And it’s not uncommon for them to go through stages of fussy or faddy eating. Here are some tips to get through that stage:
- Start with small amounts so they’re not overwhelmed by large portions
- Add a bit of variety and healthy eating options so they can try different things and find something they like
- Don’t worry about trying to get them to clear their plate. This can lead to food refusal which can make them anxious about mealtimes
Read more about ways to cope with a fussy eater.
“I give him 30 minutes to eat after that he’s free to leave the table even if he’s not cleared his plate”
How to deal with mealtime tantrums?
You’ll have seen tantrums already, and mealtimes are no different. It’s quite common as they start to test the boundaries of their independence. But remember that one refused meal isn’t the end of the world.
- Don’t offer snacks as a replacement
- Stay firm or they may think that tantrums are a way to get what they want
- Get more advice on tantrums and how to deal with them
Tips for eating out with a toddler
A change of scene can make mealtimes feel fun and exciting as well as being a treat for you and a break from the kitchen.
- Choose somewhere you know to be child friendly. The presence of high chairs is a good sign
- Book an early table. The restaurant won’t mind and you can avoid a busy restaurant full of other diners in case your little one does have a few wobbles at the table