Where do I start? Mealtimes with all children can certainly be a stressful event in any family home. Let’s Get some tips about how can you Make Mealtime with Your Child Easier.

Here are 10 helpful tips that I have used during my time as an ESDM therapist in our Inclusion Readiness Program and at home with my own 3-year old son.

a. Make sure your child is comfortable and they have the postural supports they need to focus on eating; table/ chair at correct size and height for their body.
b. Set up clear environmental cues so your child knows that it is mealtime, such as a placemat, plate on table with food and cup.


c. Give child verbal warning so they can prepare “five minutes until.. breakfast, lunch or dinner”.


d. Have a structured and consistent routine around mealtimes. For example each day breakfast is at 8:00AM, snack at 10:00AM, lunch time at 12PM, afternoon tea 3:00PM and dinner at 6:00PM. This encourages children to have predictability, time for the body to want food and your child will start to learn when mealtimes are coming.

e. If your child is refusing to join you at the table, it may help to show them the food so they can visually see that it is mealtime.

f. If the child does not want to sit at the table to participate or they do not want the food that has been offered, it can help if you bring the child’s favourite toy or activity alongside the meal. Where possible, use a disappearing object such as bubbles, but it might also be their favourite Lego, blocks or book. The goal is for the child to see mealtimes are a positive and fun time

g. Sitting with your child and eating with them is important. It helps to model the behavior that you are wanting them to do. Monkey see, monkey do!

h. Talking about all food with non-judgmental language and comment when your child is eating. For example, “It’s green!”, “It’s crunchy! Listen to the sound!”. Avoid labelling the food as yummy or yucky.

i. If your child only eats limited foods, recognize that success is also them touching or smelling a new food, not just tasting it. But these are important steps to eventually eating the food.

g. A big goal around mealtimes for me when working with children and with my son is to focus on it being a fun, positive and a relaxing time.


If you do have any further concerns about your child’s eating or mealtimes you can speak to your local GP for further advice and referral to experts who can help.


Nicola Hayes – ESDM Therapist and Mother of Jackson

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