Eating with Children and Building Healthy Living

My friend who teaches grade 3, uses a reward system where the children earn points for the whole class. The way to learn points is by following routines, demonstrating positive behavior, and for choosing to help a friend in need. When the children gain the right amount of points, she has a healthy array of food and treats, and they get to choose a free time activity for the last hour of the day. This happens about 2 times a term, and is a real motivator.

What she has to teach every year, is table manners. Not just table manners, but how to choose food items from a buffet, how to sit at the tables, how to engage in conversation, how to talk between bites, and how to clean up after themselves.

There is anxiety for a large group of children in approaching a buffet table. First there is the anxiety of will I get something I like. So, she has had to ensure the class that there is enough of everything IF each person takes one of an item, or she demonstrates what is a reasonable serving for something, say, grapes, or a treat of chips. And, she of course, allows different groups up first for each party.

She also sits with each table to model appropriate talking and eating. She models how to include someone who hasn't spoken. If something gets spilled, she has previously taught how to mop up a spill, and where the cleaning materials are. She praises how quickly someone helped to clean a spill.

Many children do not eat with their family at the dinner table, with all electronic devices off, more than once or twice a week. There are studies that are looking at the good that comes from a set mealtime, with conversation, family time and concentration on what and how we eat. These are more than family values, they are healthy habits for our children to learn.

How do you ensure that your child gets the message of healthy food, and family time?

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