Mealtimes can be the happiest moments of a child’s life. Children can participate in dynamic conversations with their parents, siblings, and extended family during mealtimes. They can feel part of a unit, feel respected and appreciated, during this time of coming together. Food isn’t just about sustenance, but it can also bring to a child a sense of culture and family heritage.
Dinnertime is about relaxing after a long day, conversing, and savoring food. It’s talking about the day and sharing highlights and lowlights. And it is time for a parent to continue to get to know his/her child. During mealtimes, it is important to give a child undivided attention by not answering or checking the phone. It is also important to show children how to wait for food as it is being passed around, how to avoid chewing with a mouth full, and how to show other table manners.
Montessori teachers are often reminded to “teach by teaching, not by correcting.” This means that adults can choose to model appropriate behavior, set reasonable expectations, and prepare the home environment for a successful mealtime. By doing so, there is no nagging, threatening, or punishing. Mealtimes should be an enjoyable experience. It takes a bit of planning and discipline, but the results are worthwhile and extend to other areas of the child’s life!