How eating as a family inspires healthy habits in young children

Break out the dinner plates and make the most of family moments by prioritizing regular mealtimes to create lasting healthy habits for your children and family.

By creating a structured and healthy mealtime ritual, parents can help children learn the importance of sitting down for a meal while developing healthy habits. Regular and consistent family mealtime has considerable benefits for children and their families, including positive impacts on nutrition, habits and routine.

According to Stanford Children’s Health, families that habitually sit down to eat together as a family are more likely to engage in positive behaviors. Eating healthy, using manners and practicing literacy and communication skills during family meals sets a positive example for young children. Communal dining room options allow the whole family get conversation flowing, enjoy meals together and inspire healthy habits in children that expand beyond the dinner table.

Build your child’s self-esteem.

While any time spent together as a family is quality time, gathering around the dinner table provides parents and caregivers with the perfect opportunity to initiate and encourage healthy conversations with young children that help to build self-esteem. Take a moment to ensure that you are present at the table, giving your full attention to those around you. Turn off the television and put away your phone to show your children that they have your full attention and you are listening to what they have to say. Make your child feel empowered and valued by eliminating digital distractions.

Encourage healthy habits.

Avoid making family mealtime a chore. Make dinnertime fun and encourage your children to get involved by inviting them to help prepare food, set the table, serve food and wash dishes. Including children to play a role in dinnertime success helps them to learn the importance of responsibilities and appreciate the effort it takes to cook a great meal. Involving children in the process of preparing dinner also allows you to introduce new, healthy foods that they may not have tried before. Children will share a stronger bond with their parents if they eat regular meals together. Beginning family mealtime habits early in life helps set the foundation for family tradition that children can practice for years to come.

Practice early literacy and boost vocabulary.

Research shows that conversing around the dinner table boosts young children’s vocabulary. When children develop a large vocabulary early in life, they are more likely to achieve better grades in school. Make sure to engage in conversations with your children during mealtime, prompt discussion and ask questions. By taking the initiative to engage in quality conversations, it’s easy to make mealtime both a fun and educational environment.


All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care. Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article. You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance. Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.