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Making Mealtimes Matter!

Mealtimes are an important opportunity for growth and learning, and they happen every day! 

Family meals provide an important opportunity for families to eat healthfully, interact and enjoy each other’s company! Research shows that when children have encouraging back-and-forth interactions with caring adults, the wiring in their brains actually changes — for the better.

Children who have regular family meals experience lower levels of depression, eating disorders, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse.  

Positive relationships are powerful and vitally important for all children, including those who have been adopted. The more nurturing social connections a child has and the more often they positively interact with others, the bigger, stronger and wiser their brains will become. Children’s bodies also grow bigger, stronger and healthier because they are receiving good nutrition, but also (and just as importantly) because they are involved in nourishing relationships. 

Children who have regular family meals experience lower levels of depression, eating disorders, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse.  

Plan and Prepare Family Meals Together  

Teaching your kids how to create healthy meals will give them the skills they need for life.  

  • Involve children in planning, preparing or cleaning up after the meal.  
  • Kids like trying foods and dishes they have helped to prepare. Cooking together can help expose children to and encourage them to be curious about new foods.  
  • Children learn by watching you practice good hygiene and teach new skills, such as safe knife use.   
  • Picky eating is normal for young children between the ages of 2 and 5. Try new foods with your child to lead by example.  
  • Give children small jobs and praise them for their efforts. Children like to help, and it can be a teaching opportunity.  
  • As children age, give them more complex responsibilities.  
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View our expanded list of recommended parenting websites, books and other resources organized by topic.

Eat Family Meals Together 

Eating together offers valuable time for interaction and connection. 

  • Regular mealtimes help to provide consistency and structure for children. Set a time and try to stick to it. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to maintain.  
  • Busy families can have a hard time always eating together. You can start small and try to work up to multiple meals together each week. 
  • Have new foods on the table and encourage children to try, but avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat them.  
  • Ensure everyone sticks around to help clean up together! Everyone must help out in some way.  
  • Try to relax and let this be a fun and enjoyable activity with your family.  
  • Lead by example and eat a variety of healthy foods. Children learn food behaviors from you.  

Communicate Together 

Talking together allows for busy families to build strong relationships.  

  • Try a “no cell phone” policy at the table! This goes for parents too. 😊  
  • Turn off the TV. 
  • Ask each person about their day: What did you eat today? What was one thing you learned? What made you feel very happy? What was something that made you laugh?
  • Plan for a walk before or after the meal. 
  • Playing board games or talking on the couch after a meal can be a good way for families to unwind together.  
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All parents encounter challenges as their children grow up. And sometimes, issues may arise that leave you uncertain as to how best to respond. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. The PACE program is here to help during those times.

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