Family Friday

Try family-style dining- it works better than you think!

Have you ever envisioned a nice quiet lunch where everyone at the table is passing food nicely and talking with each other pleasantly while enjoying their food?  If you have, we bet it wasn’t with a group of preschoolers; but you might be surprised to know that it is possible, and everyone benefits.

Children can learn and practice many social skills, such as taking turns, passing food to others, saying please and thank you, and helping set the table.  Children learn independence and self-confidence as they develop skills to serve themselves, not to mention a preference for healthier foods.BuildingBlocks_Arli

For these reasons and more, caregivers should make mealtime just like any other part of the day, an opportunity for children to learn how to nourish their bodies the right way.  Child care providers also benefit from a nice quiet lunch eating with the children and even reducing food waste.

Try This!

There are many elements to family-style dining and here are a few ways you can begin to explore family-style dining on Family Friday.

Pretend Family Dining at the Sensory Table

Set up your sensory table with serving utensils, cups, pitchers and bowls from your kitchen.  Work with the kids on pouring, scooping and even passing from one child to another.  Have a pretend meal around the sensory table.

Snack: Family-Style

Have staff sit with children during snack time and have a fun conversation about the snack they’re eating.

  • Staff can talk about taste, texture & color:
    • How many different colors do you see?
    • What color is that ____ (name a food item on their plate)?
    • Does it make a sound when you chew it?
    • What does it taste like?
    • Making general statements like: “This tastes delicious!” can help children think about what they’re eating.
    • Making specific statements like: “This ____ is crunchy & sweet” can help children identify different qualities of food and develop likes for healthy food. (use adjectives like: Juicy, sweet, sour, smooth, crunchy etc.)
  • Staff can ask about the benefits of the food they’re eating, for their body:
    • Why do we need our milk? (To have strong bones!)
    • Did you know eating these carrots will help keep your eyes health!
    • Why do we need to eat fruits?
    • Why do we need to eat vegetables?
    • Did you know this chicken/fish/meat will give you protein to help you grow strong muscles!

Adapted from Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition:

For Parents

Want More?

Share these resources with staff to explore or support family-style dining in your center: