Tips for eating together with young children

– No stress enjoyment is the name of the game. Eating with fingers and experiencing the sensory nature of eating is usually lots of fun for babies and toddlers. A tray that attaches to the table can allow food to be spread out without worries of bowls being tossed.

– Bring your baby to the table. A high chair that pushes right up to the table (there are many on the market now) or a booster seat for older toddlers allows young children to eat right at the table with the family. Eating together fosters stimulation, bonding, developmental gain, and overall mental and physical health for children and adults of all ages.

– Choose meals that everyone can eat. Serving young children the same meal as the rest of the family (age appropriate) is a great way to include them and also sets up good eating habits. I often will set aside a portion of what I am cooking before adding spices and seasoning, and puree or mash it with butter. Yum!

– Avoid battles over food. Teaching children to eat as much as feels right to their body can empower them to listen to their bodies and set up a healthy attitude towards food early on. The approach of: “Feel free to eat as much as you need to last you until breakfast” is one way to go if no snacking after dinner is the desired behavior. Another approach that we use in our family is eating until satisfied, with fresh fruit or veggie options (apple, carrot sticks, cucumber, banana) for those times my daughter is hungry later on. We have taught our daughter to pay attention to how any food choice will feel in her body later on.

– Share responsibilities. Even new walkers can get involved by carrying over their sippy cup, later helping with meal prep and carrying plates. Simple instructions shown and told, such as how to hold the edges of the plate with both hands or put the placemats away gets little ones involved and can create confidence and pride.

– Play music, dim lights, and use candles at dinner time. Research has shown that classical music stimulates brain development in children. Even plants grow towards classical music. I grew up with opera, classical and all sorts of other music in the house and the memory of music playing in the evening brings back warm feelings still. Soft music in the background can relax, stimulate and inspire a positive dinner environment. Candlelight is also wonderful ambiance when supervised, or some good battery operated tea lights are a close second, eco friendly, and can stay on unsupervised!

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The 101th Reason I Love this Product: Use the Tidy Table Tray to help your kids have a healthy, non-toxic, and stimulating mealtime:

1. The Tidy Table Tray can be a non-toxic way to contain your child’s food. I am concerned about my child ingesting plastics when she eats hot food in a plastic bowl (heat can leach out the plastic). I don’t like the idea of adding unnatural estrogen to her diet. I now use thick glass or ceramic bowls and the Tidy Table Tray keeps bowls and plates from accidentally getting knocked off the table (unless you have a child that likes to throw dishes). The cup holder also keeps my daughters child ceramic drinking mugs and cups contained.

2. Encourage healthy teeth and gums by switching from sippy cups to small drinking glasses and/or ceramic mugs earlier. “Sippy cups were created to help children transition from a bottle to drinking from a regular cup, but they’re too often used for convenience,” says American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) President Philip H. Hunke, D.D.S., M.S.D. Sippy cups are linked to tooth decay in young children, and also prevent that great hand eye coordination that drinking from a cup provides. Of course, my daughter still spills her water sometimes, but she’s practicing her coordination, and everything stays contained in her Tidy Table Tray, so it’s worth the spill!

3. Make mealtimes enriching and stimulating by bringing your child to the family table. Two makes company, and company is stimulating… so even if it’s just you and your little one, or two of your children eating together, let meal-time be shared time!

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Top 10 Reasons for Shared Meal-times with Children

1.  Social Skills:  Eating together with the family provides on-going, spontaneous opportunities for a young child to observe how Mom and Dad communicate with each other, with other family members, and with the child, itself. Because the dining table requires … Continue reading

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Motherhood Necessitates Invention – The Bambinos! Tidy Table Tray + Flexi-Diner

As a therapist and someone who grew up with regular shared mealtimes, I was able to recognize the benefits that come to children from a consistent pattern of dining together. So, when my daughter was born, from her earliest days, we seated her with us at (or actually on, in her bouncer) the table. As Teghan grew, she moved on to a highchair seat, which we pushed up to the table, and when she was ready, a booster chair.

There were definitely times when my daughter ate separately in her highchair while I washed dishes or cleaned the kitchen, but it was apparent to me that the quality of our interaction was significantly heightened when we dined together as a family: more frequent eye contact, extended word exchange, spontaneous smiles, and more laughter. I also observed that often my daughter mirrored our eating and verbal styles at the table. By the age of three, she had an impressive vocabulary, and was comfortable talking with people of all ages. I attribute some of that to the learning times that took place at the table.

I wanted to research the benefits of eating together after all my positive experiences, so I investigated published research records. Not surprisingly, virtually all of the studies I read solidly endorsed the benefits of the family mealtime experience, citing enhanced stimulation, closer bonding and more positive self-esteem as key, life-enhancing gains. I was already familiar with Marie Montessori’s perspective, which emphasizes the importance of contained, organized spaces for babies and pre-school-age children. Then, in March of 2000, Harvard published the results of their own survey by tracking 65 children over a period of 8 years. The initiative identified three activities, which consistently emerged as those most likely to maximize healthy, child development: play, story time and activities involving family members. The family dining experience was ranked Number One. (1, 2). Furthermore, their research reinforced the increasingly accepted position that children who share meals with family members develop better language skills as preschoolers. In later years, these children achieve higher success levels in school, better communication patterns, are more likely to avoid harmful substances, and generally make healthier food choices (2, 3). Armed with these and other control-study measurements, I became more convinced that ever: Bringing babies to the table is hugely beneficial!

Along with the acknowledged joy and undisputed developmental gains of eating together, came the unavoidable messes! As a first-time Mom, I was surprised by the amount of time I spent cleaning the table, clothes and the floor-area around the infamous drop-zone–both during, and after, Teghan’s meals. The wood finish on our dining room table was wearing thinner by the day from the many scrubbings I applied to remove eggs, oatmeal and other sticky foods. I tried every bib I could find but none offered much improvement. In talking to other Moms, I discovered that many had prolonged the highchair stage to avoid the messy clean-ups, but my daughter liked eating at the table. What to do? As a firm advocate that “necessity is the mother of invention”, I proceeded to place myself in a solutions mode. From that moment forward, the notion of the TTTray began to germinate.

The first prototype consisted of cardboard, duct tape, and toilet paper rolls! I decided to conduct a test-run with my baby. The experiment worked! I also saw that I was able to set up her entire meal in the kitchen and deliver the tray to the dining table–in one step. Clearly, the features inherent in my conceptualized model provided real time-savers: time I could be spending with my family at the table; and time other parents could be spending with their children.

Today, our daughter uses her Bambinos! Tidy Table Tray + Flexi-Diner for meal-time. Recently, while on vacation, I needed to send my Tray to our photographer for some last-minute shots. So the next morning, we improvised. Not surprisingly, I found oatmeal on Teghan’s dress, the floor and the table. The incident immediately brought forward a vivid reminder of the days before the Tidy Table Tray and all the clean up!

Megan Streit Wilson is the inventor of the Bambinos! Tidy Table Tray, and the president of Bambinos!, LLC. She lives with her family in Colorado.

1. Carter, Jaine and James D. Carter, Scripps Howard News Service. “Eating Together Strengthens Family Ties.” www.newschief.com/stories/022799/lif_family.shtml
2. Background: Research on Family Meals, Martha Marino, MA, RD, CD and
Sue Butkus, PhD, RD 3. Sanford, Carolyn. “Using ‘rare’ words at mealtime can enlarge children’s vocabulary.” record.wustl.edu/archive/1995/09-28-95/4234.html.

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