A Pediatrician's Tips for Teaching Independence Starts at the Dining Table

A Pediatrician's Tips for Teaching Independence Starts at the Dining Table

By Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, Founder, Ahimsa.

While some may refer to them as chores, I call them learning opportunities! Our families are teams and we have the ability to teach valuable life skills to our youngest teammates during their daily routines. Additionally, there are a multitude of learning opportunities and benefits that come with family mealtime. Patience is necessary when it comes to these teachable moments - resist the urge to just “do it yourself”. Implementing age appropriate tasks is important and while a 2 year old may not be able to take out the trash quite yet they are capable of doing much more than you may expect!

Through these opportunities to grow as a family and learn pivotal lessons, our young ones will grow in their confidence and be eager to help in no time!

    • 1) Meal Preparation: Prepping your meals is a great educational opportunity for your young ones to learn and explore different foods. With proper supervision and age appropriate kitchenware, using a cheese grater and practicing early knife skills encourages participation in the kitchen. When measuring ingredients my kids are able to learn about fractions. For example, for a recipe we needed one half cup of sugar and one half cup of flour, my kids were excited to learn that two halves make a whole! Cooking constantly sparks curiosity and engagement, there are so many potential learnings.

    • 2) Set the Table: Keeping dishes accessible and in reach of the children is helpful in order to allow them to set the table with a sense of independence. Folding napkins can be great for encouraging fine motor skills, and can serve as a fun bonding activity.

    • 3) Quality Family Time: Eating together as a family is the best way to model healthy eating. Studies show that eating a family meal together at the dining table at least three times per week leads to healthier children. Meals together as a family is a perfect way to connect, communicate, and focus on one another despite our busy schedules throughout the day.

    • 4) Ownership of Meals: Children will develop food preferences early on, so it is important to communicate with them and allow for them to be involved with meals. If they are given the opportunity to help pick out and prepare veggies, they are much more likely to enjoy them and want to try more!

    • 5) Helping with Dishes: Regardless if it is loading the dishwasher, rinsing the plates or simply drying a cup, having your children help with dishes from a young age is a great way to teach responsibility.

Together as a team your family can learn and grow, simply starting at the dining table. Being consistently patient, encouraging, and a good role model in the kitchen is so important to allowing for these learning experiences. Cheers to happy healthy eating!

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