By Cathy Monaghan RD MINDI Paediatric Dietitian.

It can be challenging when a child becomes reliant on screens during mealtimes, but there are steps you can take to address the issue and promote more family focused mealtimes. 

Here are some tips to help your child eat without a screen.

Many of these are age dependent so please make choose age appropriate tips!

 

Every child is different, and it may take time to transition away from screen reliance during meals.

Engage in Conversation: Encourage conversation during meals. Ask open-ended questions about your child’s day, interests, or thoughts. Engaging discussions can make mealtime more enjoyable and interactive.

Create a Routine: Keep a regular mealtime routine. Having consistent meal schedules can help your child understand when it’s time to eat, reducing the need for distractions like screens.

Make Meals Enjoyable: Create a fun and pleasant mealtime atmosphere. Make the table a colourful and interesting place! Play soft background music, or adding some decorations to the table. Make the mealtime experience enjoyable so your child looks forward to it.

Involve Your Child: Get your child involved in meal preparation. When children have a hand in preparing their food, they are often more interested in eating it. Let them choose ingredients or assist with simple tasks.

Offer a Variety of Foods: Provide a variety of nutritious foods, including some that your child enjoys. This can make mealtime more appealing and lessens the likelihood of them wanting a screen for entertainment.

Set a Time Limit: If your child insists on screens during meals, set a reasonable time limit for screen use. Once the time is up, turn off the screen, and encourage them to focus on their meal and family conversation.

Use Positive Reinforcement: Praise and acknowledge your child when they sit without a screen. Positive reinforcement can motivate them to continue this behavior. Try not to praise the food eaten but praise the sitting and talking and skills involved with eating.

Limit Screen Time Overall: Implement daily screen time limits for recreational use, including during mealtime. Google Family Link can help with this.

Ensure your child gets enough physical activity and sleep as well. Sometimes child benefit from some activity before the meal – dancing, playing etc, especially if they have been sitting a lot during the day.

Be Patient and Consistent: Changing habits takes time, and there may be resistance initially. Be patient and consistent with your approach. Eventually, your child may adapt to eating without screens.

Model Healthy Behavior: Children often mimic their parents’ behavior. Show your child that you can enjoy meals without screens, and they may follow your lead. Designate the dining area as a screen-free zone. This means no phones, tablets, or TVs at the table during meals. Make it a rule for everyone in the family, including adults, to lead by example.

If the issue persists or becomes a major concern, consider booking a 1:1 consultation where we can provide tailored advice and strategies for you and your child’s specific situation. 

Remember that every child is different, and it may take time to transition away from screen reliance during meals.