Top tips for family meal times

With the children at home for several weeks over the summer, keeping things creative in the kitchen is a must. Devoid of the school day to distract from the humdrum of the dining table experience, creating fun family mealtimes is a must.

Getting children involved in the culinary process is a wonderful way to spend time together. In a day and age when all activities seem to cost the earth, going back to basics can really please the school holiday budget.

Adding a good dollop of dedication to family meal times can show youngsters a world of wonders. From costing, planning and cooking to hosting and entertaining, putting the pleasure into dining can make it an enjoyable experience rather than an ongoing chore. Who knows, us parents may even enjoy plating up the grub!

Breaking free from the usual hectic timetable to allow for such a slow-paced dinner is a luxury in itself. It teaches children that meal times aren’t simply a pitstop in our fast-paced world, but a pleasure-filled event. Let’s see how this can be achieved.

Plan the menu

Youngsters love to have a say in what goes down in the house. Set out a budget and take a trip to the local butchers, greengrocers, bakers, or if you prefer to do the ‘Big Shop’, your nearest supermarket.

With your weekly menu plan designed, create a list and pick up what you need from the stores. Equipped for cooking, it’s time to hit the kitchen.

Portmeirion The Very Hungry Caterpillar Children’s Baking Set

Get involved with cooking

Whether you follow recipes or go with your instinct a la how-granny-used-to-bake-it, involve your children in the process. With the end product in mind, talk them through the ingredients, let them get hands on and teach them measurements and techniques. Don’t forget cooking temperatures and safety tips, too.

While the end result may not quite be Pinterest perfect, it will certainly have homemade charm. As little ones gleam with delight, it will definitely be a dinner they’ll be proud of.

Portmeirion The Very Hungry Caterpillar 3 Piece Melamine Set

Setting the table

Ok, so it seems so simple but setting the table correctly is a skill that is frankly going straight down the swanny. And why? After all, it should be perfectly obvious where placemats, cutlery, and condiments live on the dining table.

The fact is, hectic lifestyles do not agree with beautifully adorned table settings. Say a big-fat no to this over summer. Enjoy picking flowers together for a chic, cheap, cheery centrepiece. Show the little ones where knives, forks and spoons lie. Light a candle. Drink from matching glasses. Beautiful.

Portmeirion The Very Hungry Caterpillar Melamine Sectional Tray

Do things differently

As excited as children will be to eat the food they have prepared, why not do things differently from time to time? After all, dinner-table rules were made to be broken, right?

Plate up sides or puddings in the middle of the table, let children choose their bits and pieces for themselves. Ditch the formalities altogether and head to the park with a wholesome homemade picnic. Encourage your youngsters to entertain, creating a buffet and inviting their friends, and your nearest and dearest.

And, don’t forget, dining isn’t reserved solely for food. Add in some table games for a first-class family meal time.

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90 Comments

  1. Rebecca Cusick
    August 9, 2018 / 11:40 am

    Try and have set meal times & make sure everyone eats at the same time when possible! I find that having everyone eating together helps a lot x

  2. Sarah Morris
    August 9, 2018 / 12:51 pm

    No phones at meal times

  3. Amanda Baggott
    August 9, 2018 / 1:19 pm

    Always eat at the table

  4. Debbie Finnerty
    August 9, 2018 / 1:32 pm

    Don’t fuss, this has been the biggest tip for me I have a really fussy eater and for a long time I would stress ‘he won’t eat veg’ or ‘he doesn’t ever finish a meal’ and meal times often became a battle zone, in the end I was took advice from the professionals and just stepped back, if he doesn’t finish a meal that’s ok he won’t starve himself lol so now there is less pressure and we actually love meal times now it’s the best family time of the day!

  5. Yvonne
    August 9, 2018 / 2:12 pm

    No TV or mobiles at mealtimes

  6. Jamie Piper
    August 9, 2018 / 2:29 pm

    No TV during meal times, up at the table

  7. Tracy Nixon
    August 9, 2018 / 2:30 pm

    Ban any technology at the table and talk!

  8. Danielle Spencer
    August 9, 2018 / 2:30 pm

    Put the technology away for dinner time.

  9. Marycarol
    August 9, 2018 / 2:56 pm

    No distractions whether its tv or phones x

  10. Helen Moulden
    August 9, 2018 / 4:10 pm

    I think secretly conceal vegetables in the food!

  11. Sarah Mackay
    August 9, 2018 / 4:25 pm

    I try and get the kids involved as much as possible

  12. Jessica Nightingale
    August 9, 2018 / 4:41 pm

    Chuck a bit of classic fm on in the background!

  13. Lorna Ledger
    August 9, 2018 / 5:25 pm

    We look at things on Pinterest, Kids eat with their eyes! then we make them

  14. Kathleen Marsden
    August 9, 2018 / 5:37 pm

    No tv, no tech, and make a set time everyday if you can

  15. LAURA MILTON
    August 9, 2018 / 6:02 pm

    We have a routine that we stick to everyday so the kids dont get stressed or confused. We start with choosing if we want veg or salad as a side then wash hands, set table together and get cups ready. We all eat at the table and make it fun by talking about things like peas are footballs for elves and broccoli keeps fairies dry from the rain 🙂 It keeps them interested and before you know it their plates are empty!

  16. Michelle Smith
    August 9, 2018 / 7:22 pm

    Try and eat together and not at seperate times.

  17. amy bondoc
    August 9, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    i love gettign the kids involved in the cooking, stops them being fussy 😉

  18. Solange
    August 9, 2018 / 9:25 pm

    Eat around the table and set a good example. From time to time we might tuck into a pizza on the sofa in front of a film, but the rest of the time we eat at the table, and whenever we have the opportunity to sit down together as a family we make sure we do it. Treat meals as social family time to be enjoyed, rather than as a chore which they have to complete in order to go back to playing.

  19. Val Pownall
    August 9, 2018 / 11:08 pm

    Involve the little ones in the cooking and serving, setting the table, taking drink orders and helping serve. They suddenly become very grown up.

  20. Colin Simon
    August 9, 2018 / 11:56 pm

    Every one having a set meal time if possible and no phones or tv.

  21. Rich Tyler
    August 10, 2018 / 12:56 am

    No phones / tablets etc to distract at dinner time, ideally sit together as a family

  22. Laura Turner
    August 10, 2018 / 7:04 am

    no phones, tablets or games and all waste goes in the compost bin.

  23. Sue McCarthy
    August 10, 2018 / 8:05 am

    I don’t have any children but would love to win this prize to donate to charity, to go to Romania.

  24. iain maciver
    August 10, 2018 / 9:28 am

    a good routine

  25. Sally Collingwood
    August 10, 2018 / 9:48 am

    We all sit together, no mobiles, lots of chatter and interaction!!

  26. Mrs Kay Young
    August 10, 2018 / 10:45 am

    Eat together

  27. gemma hendry
    August 10, 2018 / 2:14 pm

    eat together no tv

  28. Lydia Joy
    August 10, 2018 / 3:47 pm

    My top tip is don’t expect it to be perfect – because it won’t be! Praise your kids for eating nicely, encourage chewing with their mouth closed and using cutlery, but don’t stress if they can’t manage. Allow kids to explore their food and they’ll enjoy a larger variety.

  29. Samantha O'D
    August 10, 2018 / 4:58 pm

    Try sit down and eat at the same time. meal times are nightmare in our house. Big family and a tiny kitchen. desperately saving for an extension

  30. Judith Lightfoot
    August 10, 2018 / 9:03 pm

    No meals on knees in front of the TV, table at all times!

  31. Geri Gregg
    August 11, 2018 / 12:07 pm

    Family eats together, no tv

  32. Tracy Newton
    August 11, 2018 / 7:22 pm

    Pick your battles, food and meal times are not one of them. Your child will not starve

  33. Vikki Sanderson
    August 11, 2018 / 10:45 pm

    Keep relaxed and don’t force the kids to eat things they don’t like, as long as they at least try it.

  34. cheryl hadfield
    August 12, 2018 / 10:43 pm

    Always sit and eat together at the table

  35. Rachael Sexey
    August 13, 2018 / 12:04 pm

    Always eat as a family and turn off all electrical items so you have no distractions and can talk ☺

  36. Ema J Lowe
    August 14, 2018 / 10:47 am

    all electronic devices get put down, while we are eating

  37. Helen Stratton
    August 14, 2018 / 4:25 pm

    As someone else has said – don’t fuss. Keep dinner a relaxed and fun family time. All eat together and catch up with each other.

  38. andrea tinkler
    August 14, 2018 / 7:46 pm

    I try to make meal times as relaxed as possible as my little girl does not seen to eat much. If i nag her she eats even less!!!

  39. jules eley
    August 14, 2018 / 9:46 pm

    Get the kids to help with making and setting up to help them feel apart of it!

  40. Ann Grisdale
    August 16, 2018 / 1:59 pm

    Use Portmeirion ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar’ or ‘Peppa Pig’ melamine sets as part of your relaxed meal routine as you sit at the table to eat as a family whenever possible. You cant go wrong!

  41. August 16, 2018 / 6:51 pm

    My top tip would be to make the kids plates fun! My kids love it when I make animals/faces out of their food

  42. Pam Smith
    August 16, 2018 / 10:20 pm

    No electronic devices at the table

  43. JULIE WARD
    August 17, 2018 / 8:53 pm

    We let grandchildren help with the cooking, it most probably tastes better than if I did it myself

  44. Niki Marie Wardle
    August 18, 2018 / 10:13 pm

    Let the kids choose what they want (within reason) while shopping and get them involved with meal planning.

  45. Nancy Bradford
    August 19, 2018 / 7:31 am

    My top tip is no electronics (including the telly being) on during meal time.

  46. Carolyn Montgomery
    August 19, 2018 / 10:57 am

    This would be a lovely set for my grandchild x

  47. Joanna Munro
    August 19, 2018 / 4:26 pm

    Making little mosters using the food definitley helps getting them to eat it, veg included

  48. kris mc
    August 21, 2018 / 11:50 am

    Let them join in with the cooking.

  49. richard hill
    August 21, 2018 / 7:00 pm

    try to keep regular times eat at the table and no games or phones at the table

  50. Susan Willshee
    August 21, 2018 / 9:40 pm

    I know it seems old fashioned now but sitting around the table minimizes mess and gives us all a chance to chat during the meal

  51. August 22, 2018 / 2:26 pm

    No screens!

  52. sheri Darby
    August 22, 2018 / 3:09 pm

    Try and cook something everyone enjoys

  53. Sam Parkes
    August 22, 2018 / 10:00 pm

    All sitting at the table and all phones an tablets turned off

  54. Hannah Scudder
    August 22, 2018 / 10:10 pm

    Eat together as a family when possible and no technology or tv at the table.

  55. Ashley Phillips
    August 22, 2018 / 11:10 pm

    My children eat better if they’ve helped make it, even if it’s just stirring something or helping put it on the baking tray

  56. paula cheadle
    August 23, 2018 / 11:27 pm

    no phones or telly

  57. Beverley Evans
    August 24, 2018 / 8:26 am

    My Grandchildren always lay the table and then sit around the table to eat. They talk about their day and there is no tv or phones at mealtimes.

  58. Jenny Rogers
    August 24, 2018 / 10:53 am

    Get the children to help with the prep and laying the table, then eat together and chat.

  59. Rebecca Whatmore
    August 24, 2018 / 2:46 pm

    If they don’t like veg then chop it up really small so they can’t see it!

  60. Karen Barrett
    August 24, 2018 / 3:40 pm

    All the family has input into our family meals

  61. Jo Bickley
    August 25, 2018 / 8:51 am

    We don’t have any phones, occasionally we will have the radio on but I don’t make a fuss either.

  62. Rebecca Powell
    August 25, 2018 / 10:51 am

    Get the children to help make meals, then they will enjoy eating what they have made

  63. Louise Hayward
    August 25, 2018 / 11:00 am

    Don’t fuss about how much the kids eat.

  64. Sophie Marie Cartwright
    August 25, 2018 / 11:11 am

    Stick to a set meal time and as they get older, involve them in the cooking!

  65. margaret gallagher
    August 25, 2018 / 6:12 pm

    set meal times convesation and ban tech

  66. Rachel B
    August 25, 2018 / 8:17 pm

    Eat at the table together and not in front of the tv

  67. Mary-Ann Smith
    August 25, 2018 / 8:50 pm

    all eating together at the table, that way the adults model the good eating habits for the small ones

  68. amanda greensmith
    August 25, 2018 / 10:49 pm

    we always sit at the table no TV or phones meal times are family times its a chance for the whole family to catch up

  69. Emma Middleton
    August 26, 2018 / 8:49 am

    Weekly Meal plan, set meal times, eat at table with no phones, conversation is key to a happy mealtime

  70. astrid c
    August 26, 2018 / 9:06 am

    make sure its relaxed and stress free

  71. carol boffey
    August 26, 2018 / 9:41 am

    family meals at the table

  72. Allan Fullarton
    August 26, 2018 / 9:42 am

    No TV at meal times.

  73. Danielle Pooley
    August 26, 2018 / 10:13 am

    No phones or tv.

  74. Kim Neville
    August 26, 2018 / 10:17 am

    No gadgets on and have a nice time catching up with family round the table

  75. Wendy Tyler
    August 26, 2018 / 10:18 am

    When introdusing something new, I try to have a couple of things on their plate that the child already knows and likes.

  76. Wendy Tyler
    August 26, 2018 / 10:19 am

    or even when introducing something new!

  77. Jo Hutchings
    August 26, 2018 / 10:22 am

    Always eat together and keep it fun!

  78. Nicola Marshall
    August 26, 2018 / 10:38 am

    I get the kids involved with mealtimes, settings the table and helping with what ever I’m cooking.

  79. MANDY DOHERTY
    August 26, 2018 / 12:40 pm

    Try not to get stressed and no tech at the table

  80. Jeanette Leighton
    August 26, 2018 / 1:22 pm

    Sit at the table with TV off and no toys or distractions….it doesn’t always work in my house with my fussy 2 year old

  81. Natalee Gosiewski
    August 26, 2018 / 3:55 pm

    No tv all sit together same time same meal

  82. sara clarke
    August 26, 2018 / 4:01 pm

    no phones and always sit at the table

  83. Danielle graves
    August 26, 2018 / 5:00 pm

    Compromise, add something new as an accompaniment to a firm favourite so your family can try new things, if they don’t like it it’s no big issue

  84. Hayley Todd
    August 26, 2018 / 6:29 pm

    We always make sure we eat our evening meal together as a family, at the dining table. We always make sure there is no TV and myself and my husband always leave our phones in another room.

  85. laura stewart
    August 26, 2018 / 6:43 pm

    plan a head each week x

  86. Em S
    August 26, 2018 / 9:23 pm

    I love family meal times, everyone can contribute and talk about their day. My top tip is to serve to be relaxed with table manners.

  87. Emma Beckett
    August 26, 2018 / 10:01 pm

    Patience, patience, patience

  88. Lia Burns
    August 26, 2018 / 10:18 pm

    Turn off all technology including the tv, and just enjoy each others company. Life is too short!

  89. Natalie Crossan
    August 26, 2018 / 10:56 pm

    We plan a week ahead and then do a food shop around what we’ve planned

  90. Natalie Gillham
    August 26, 2018 / 11:00 pm

    Eat together round a table, turn off technology and talk to each other x

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