Friday, August 17, 2012

The Mealtime Environment

The structure of the mealtime environment can have a major impact on a child's eating behavior. Overall, strive for a positive environment that is predictable and supportive. To optimize the environment, implement the following:
  • Schedule regular meals for the family. Have everyone remain seated at the table for the duration of the meal.
  • Avoid grazing.This means only offering water between meals and snacks. This supports a regular hunger-satiation pattern and may lead to increased daily food consumption. 
  • Create regular routines related to mealtime. For instance, have the family wash hands together or set the table together.
  • Try starting and ending mealtime with a positive experience, such as washing your hands while singing a favorite song or allowing your child access to a preferred food.
  • Have your child seated at eye level to others at the table. This may require use of a booster seat or highchair. 
  • Be sure that your child's seating allows free use of hands for self-feeding.
  • Minimize auditory and visual distractions at mealtime by turning the television off and keeping toys away from the table.
  • Have everyone in the family eat the same foods at mealtime. Avoid short order cooking for picky eaters. 
  • Model positive feeding behaviors for your child throughout the meal.
  • Try limiting meals to 30 minutes and snacks to 10-15 minutes. 
  • Avoid distraction as a tactic for getting your child to eat. Also, avoid sneaking in bites of food. These tactics may work in the short term, but in the long term they will not facilitate acceptance of foods which leads to improved eating behavior. Additionally, negative associations with foods and mealtime will be created. The ultimate goal of a meal should be creating positive experiences with food.
  • Do not rush through meals. Your child may need extra time given developing self-feeding skills. Additionally, mealtime is meant to be a social experience. Talk with your child about the food you are eating, ask him questions about his day, or discuss his favorite things.

Parent's guide to feeding strategies & positive mealtime behavior
Chatterboxes feeding therapy
Feeding therapy FAQ

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful tips for meal time. This is such an important time for children to learn and a great time for language development.
    Come visit at