Mealtime Challenges With Kids: 4 Simple Strategies for Improving Mealtime Participation by 30Seconds Mom
For some children, sitting through a meal can be difficult. Your child may want to get up and walk around the table in between bites or may be distracted by toys or games nearby.
If you are looking for a way to help your child sit patiently and participate actively during mealtimes, try this behavior strategy which incorporates choices and visual supports:
- First, create a mealtime menu of choices from which your child can choose. For example, for lunch, they can choose either a hot dog or peanut butter sandwich, with Jell-O or applesauce, and carrots or celery. Your child will choose between those options to build their lunch menu.
- Encourage your child to help you prepare the meal when the time comes. That can encourage participation and excitement around the meal.
- Then, pull together materials to create a visual conversation support. Label three containers (could be cups or cans – whatever you have handy) with the words: “First Turn to Talk” on one container, “Second Turn to Talk” on another, and finally, “All Done” on the third container. The visual conversation support is meant to help your child follow along with the flow of conversation during mealtimes and encourage participation.
- Using craft sticks or strips of paper, write each family member’s name on one. These sticks will then be placed in the first container. Your child will be in charge of moving the sticks from one container to the next, reading the name on each aloud as they are drawn. As each family member’s name is called, everyone at the table is encouraged to take two bites of food from their meal. Keep taking bites between turns and moving the craft sticks to the next container after everyone’s name has been called. When all of the sticks are in the third container, your child can either finish their meal, or they can be done and be excused from the table.
This behavior strategy helps turn sitting through a meal into more of a game for your child in which they are in charge. They get to manage the flow of the meal and make choices about what they are eating. All of these supports help to encourage your child to actively engage in and sit more patiently through mealtimes.
Source: The Watson Institute
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