Playful, lively and fun — young children are often brimming with imagination and energy. But when it comes to mealtimes, it may be challenging to convince them to sit still and eat together as a family.

As parents, it is important to cultivate their perception of mealtime as a positive experience so that your children can build healthy eating habits and make mealtimes something to look forward to.

Running out of ideas to achieve this? Here are 4 tips you can practice at home to encourage your children to eat together.

1. “Would you like to choose what you want to eat?”

At an age when they’re usually told what to do, your child would appreciate being given the occasional choice to decide what they want to eat. Allowing them to play a role in this decision would also make them look forward to their meals and would ensure clean plates and happy bellies. At the same time, you would also be able to supervise what they eat and ensure they get the nutrition they require by providing a healthy set of choices for them to pick from. 

2. “Let’s sit down and we’ll do it together!”

Teaming up with your child to compete against another parent also makes for an exciting dinner plot. The idea of working as a team to attack your food one spoon at a time also acts as motivation for your little ones to work towards a single goal — empty plates! Here’s a bonus — your children will also learn the value of teamwork through this method.

3. “Do you want to hear a story?”

Mealtimes are not just for eating. They are an opportunity for the family to come together and share stories, laughter and create new memories. Helping your children recognise this at a young age can go a long way in moulding their perceptions of mealtimes.

Sharing a story can keep your children engaged throughout mealtime while encouraging them to value mealtime as a time without distractions. Encouraging them to take turns to tell their stories also helps to develop their communication skills. Children will learn to speak, listen and hold conversations while maintaining eye contact, which are important social skills for the future. To ensure that everyone participates in the storytelling session, try to keep the TV and electronic devices out of sight during this time. 

4. “Come, let’s play a game!”

Nothing brings children running to the table as quickly as the thought of having fun. Gather the family and play word games at the dinner table. You can also organise a themed dinner, or prepare a restaurant-styled menu and allow your children to pretend that they are ordering food. Putting in the extra effort to transform mealtime into a game not only makes your little ones enthusiastic about their meals from young, but also highlights the importance of mealtime as one that is sacred time to the family. 

Whether you’re choosing to create themed nights or play games at the table, a good start to every mealtime can go a long way in making it an enjoyable experience for everyone.