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NOW CLOSED Tell us your thoughts on family teatime (and if/how you make it fun for you and your family) and you could win £150 of supermarket vouchers

(114 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 28-Feb-13 08:13:24

We know many MN families manage to eat together in the evening and the team at Birds Eye - as part of their Teatime Handover campaign (that encourages families to come together at teatime) want to hear your thoughts and best tips for successful family teatimes.

So please share on this thread how you make it work for you. We'd also like to know whether you think it's important for families to eat together and if so why? Or do you prefer eating at a different time to the children? How do you or can you make it more fun for adults and children to enjoy a family meal time together?

Please also share your thoughts on how easy or difficult, important or not sharing teatime is when children are different ages - for example if you have a teen - is this harder or easier than then they were younger?

Everyone who shares their thoughts or tips on this thread will be entered into a prize draw where one MNer will win a £150 Supermarket voucher (the winner can choose the store they want the voucher for). Please note your tips and thoughts may be used on a special email MN will be creating for Birds Eye and also on a new Facebook app which Birds Eye are creating to help families across the UK with teatime (your MN name will not be used).

Thanks and good luck!

PS: For easy recipes and Teatime Handover tips visit

FannyPriceless Thu 28-Feb-13 14:02:42

It's really difficult on weekdays actually. DH and I both work full time. The kids (2 and 4) have tea at the childcarer and we all get home together at about 6pm. Bedtime is 7pm so we focus on making that hour quality time together - although it doesn't involve a meal it is proper family time with stories and talking all about our days.

On weekends we have a proper meal together, usually Sunday roast. The kids love it! DD helps me get napkins and candles for the table, and they serve themselves peas and roast potatoes. They decided that we each have our own candle, and as each person finishes their lunch they are allowed to put the candle out with the snuffer. Very weird! But I suppose that's how family traditions get started... confused

iwantavuvezela Thu 28-Feb-13 14:06:53

I do believe it is important to eat together, as i think this is a useful time to learn manners, talk together, and is something that most people will need to be able to do later in life. I have been with people who have felt this whole process of eating, sharing a meal quite threatening, so i believe that starting with children on how to eat, set a table, talk, forms the basis for this and is a social skill that is needed. However we are able to eat all together mainly at weekends, but if i need to feed my daughter on a school night, she eats earlier, then i will eat a token amount with her so that we share the mean. I find that the meals we enjoy the most is when we tells stories, play verbal games and generally itneract with each other.
One of the "problems" with us all sharing teatime is that my duaghter eats at 12.00 at school so is starving by 5.00 and needs to eat her meal then. My husband is only home around 7.00 so on weekdays this is not possible. However they share breakfasts together, and on weekends and holidays when this is more flexible we do it.

I dont have a teenager so can't comment on that aspect.

Fillybuster Thu 28-Feb-13 14:11:08

Very interesting to read other posters' answers on this thread...

We never have dinner together during the week. My dcs are 7, 5 and 2.5, and both dh and I work in the sort of full time jobs that mean it is a massive (and I mean massive ) achievement if I can get home 5 minutes before the 2 younger dcs 7pm bedtime 2 or 3 nights a week. Dh is never home for bedtime, and rarely gets in before 9pm.

School day breakfasts are fairly sociable: I tend not to be around (last minute makeup time) but dh aims to hang out with the children until they have finished their cereal and toast, at which point he runs out of the front door. Midweek dinners for the children are mostly pre-cooked by me, heated up by the aupair and the 3 of them eat together with her lending a hand. We still apply the 'rules' (proper table manners and conversation (and no tv!)) even if we're not home.

Most days dh and I eat together around 9.30/10pm. Eating so late isn't ideal, but it is the only time we get together, so is very important.

Weekends are entirely different. Breakfast and lunch are full-on family affairs, often with many additional friends and family at the table, and tea-time, likewise is very sociable. Neither dh nor I can eat dinner at 5.30pm, but we all prepare the food together with the dcs, and then will sit at the table with a cup of tea and chat with them (and pick at their food!) whilst they are eating. So we are very sociable, even if we don't eat together.

montiefletcher Thu 28-Feb-13 14:12:15

Tea time is the best part of the day, when we all sit together as a family to discuss our days. However there has been dramas over the years when the children turn their nose up to my meal choices but god bless tomato sauce. My children even eat their vegetables!

MyMillsBaby Thu 28-Feb-13 14:13:58

Eating together is hugely important for us as a family. When it was just myself and OH we used to eat off our laps whilst watching the TV (we had the odd accident with gravy dribbling onto our knees) - since we've welcomed baby Dexter into our lives, we now eat together at the dining table with the TV off.

Dex has a highchair that is height adjustable and swivels so both of us take turns feeding him throughout the meal. This gives us both a chance to eat our own dinner!

We use the time to talk about our day and try to talk to Dex as much as possible so he feels included. The effect of this has been that Dexter will eat ANYTHING on his plate. He tries everything and loves his greens. I think it's because he sees that we're eating the same as him so we're not conning him with things we wouldn't eat ourselves ;-)

As soon as he's able, we'll get him to help clear away and wash up. It's important he learns the value of helping around the home. We'll reward him with stickers and let him stay up an extra 15 minutes before bed as an incentive. I literally can't wait as it always seems to be me chipping my nails in the washing up bowl!

Fillybuster Thu 28-Feb-13 14:16:16

Oh, just to add: at weekends I expect the children to set the table for all meals, and help with the clearing up afterwards (there's no time on school days).

And both during the week and at weekends, basic etiquette is a given: please and thank you for anything they are served or request, "please may I leave the table, thank you for a lovely meal" at the end, and so on.

MimsyBorogroves Thu 28-Feb-13 14:19:37

We try to eat together as often as possible, but as DH works with a long commute 2 weeks out of every 4, half the time I will wait and eat with him.

That said, I always sit with the boys whilst they're eating and chat about our days, future plans, etc...though at the moment a lot of it is trying to get DS1 to actually eat instead of talk/daydream!

Once a month or so as a treat we will do a "movie night" on a Saturday where we will sit on the sofa and eat pizza with a film. This is kept as a treat and a novelty.

Both mine are young (4 and 1) but I'd like to keep this for as long as possible. In my late primary/secondary school years I usually ate alone as my mum was working a couple of hour's drive away, so I used to sit at the table and read whilst I ate.

weenwee Thu 28-Feb-13 14:27:24

My 2 year old and I eat all our meals together, and daddy as well on the weekends. We try to include foods that all three of us like, so we can 'share' with each other (our son LOVES to feed us). It's a great way to introduce concepts like saying thank you when served, or wiping his face with a napkin in a laid back manner.

elizaco Thu 28-Feb-13 14:29:31

We try and eat altogether as much as possible, but it isn't always possible. Sometimes my husband's late in from work, and sometimes one or both the girls are doing various activities. I tend to make tea for 5pm nowadays as if I leave it later, the girls are just constantly pestering for snacks! We're usually altogether at weekends though, and I agree that this is when conversation often flows easiest - when everyone is sat together with no distractions.

motherofvikings Thu 28-Feb-13 14:29:36

Mine are almost 4 and 2yo. We have always, right from the first purée, had dinner together at 6. We've been lucky that dh has always worked fairly close to home so he's always been home in time for tea.
I've also always given them the same food as us, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I want them to have a varied diet.

This is their version of normal an they don't really know any other way. Once they start school they might have other ideas but my laziness resistance to cooking twice a night should keep us all eating together until they're old enough to be out doing clubs without me. smile

OldBagWantsNewBag Thu 28-Feb-13 14:33:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hopezibah Thu 28-Feb-13 14:36:57

We have always had teatime together as a family from the moment each child started weaning. It has occasionally been tricky but I would just adjust snack times, naptimes, bedtimes accordingly to make it work - so when hubby had a longer commute we used to have a later tea, but now he gets home promptly, we can all eat together at 5pm so it works well for the kids too.

That way it makes it a lot easier for food as we can all eat the same thing. And I am doing baby led weaning with my youngest - so it is perfect for that too. None of mine are fussy eaters and i am sure it is because they have watched us eat all different foods and have been exposed to eating lots of different foods themselves as part of our mealtimes together.

We always sit at the table for meals. I hope that the kids will grow up to treasure the memories of our mealtimes together.

We have made some adjustments for my autistic son - he needs a 'move n sit' cushion and special cutlery, but with these things he can be part of our mealtimes together.

My top tip would be to make mealtimes fun and relaxed - a time to focus on spending time with each other and enjoying each others company, so don't get stressed or worried about how much kids eat or if they refuse the food they don't like. Hopefully in time they'll be happy to eat most things and enjoy having mealtimes together.

Once they have finished, i do let them excuse themselves from the table and get down because otherwise it can be boring for them to wait for everyone to finish - so that it doesn't become a negative experience for them.

Hopezibah Thu 28-Feb-13 14:39:08

Forgot to say, we also have 'theme days' for trying different foods eg mexican tortillas, italian pizza, Indian curry, Chinese new year - chinese foods. That way you can combine a fun activity like a related craft in the day (like making flags, hats, props etc) or a cookery activity where they help prepare the food eg pizza making, with your theme and that makes it more fun to come together at mealtimes to enjoy it together. x

MakeTeaNotWar Thu 28-Feb-13 14:48:01

Like most of the other posters, we make a concerted effort to eat together. DH is sometimes home late for work but I will eat with the kids which is a pity for him s he gets reheated leftovers alone when he gets back! I am the only vegetarian in the family so do sometimes eat different things but the children don't comment as this is how it's always been.

As DD is only 2.7, I do sometimes have to bribe her with singing nursery rhymes and made up songs round the table to ensure that she stays seated!

racingheart Thu 28-Feb-13 15:04:07

DH and I often both work from home which makes it easy for us to eat as a family. We are very traditional - sit up at kitchen table, no TV, though we do sometimes have music. Except on Fridays when it's home made pizzas in front of a film. Teatime is a favourite time of day for me, as I finally get to wheedle out of DC what they've done all day, and they and DH are very good at bantering so I normally sit and giggle quite a lot at them all. Gets a bit excitable quite often. DC's table manners aren't all they might be, though they are improving. The cat usually tries to join us, sitting up at a vacant chair with a very expectant look on his face.

DH and I are getting increasingly bored of the family favourites repertoire, (DC would eat spag bol/lasagne/shepherd's pie nearly every night if they could) though and keep trying to introduce new food. Usually it's a hit with one DS but not the other.

DS2 has made it his job to clear the plates, and DS 1 gets drinks for people when he can remember. I cook and DH washes up. We never eat fast food and very rarely have takeaways, couple of times a year, but we do eat fish fingers or oven baked battered fish and chips when we're busy/I'm too knackered to cook. About once a fortnight.

katiewalters Thu 28-Feb-13 15:10:11

We have a 3year old boy, and every teatime we sit at the table together, and eat our meals. We will just sit and talk about what we have done that day, eg what my son did at nursery, how my partners day at work has been. Its just a nice, relaxed time, where we enjoy our food and family time together. My son is very independent, so depending on what we are having, I will put the food in bowls on the table for us to serve ourselves and put it on our plates, and my son enjoys doing this, even though he sometimes makes a mess

worldgonecrazy Thu 28-Feb-13 15:11:32

We eat at around 7.00 - 7.30 p.m. as that is how long it takes us to get home and make food. DD (3) "Helps" in the kitchen and we always sit at the table to eat except on pizza-nights. Because it's a late meal she has a snack at around 4-5 in the afternoon to tide her over.

DD has sat at the table with us since birth, as the family believe it is important to eat together at a table.

We don't have rules and we don't alter recipes to suit fussiness. We just keep things calm and unhurried, and try and use the time to share what we've done that day. My only tip would be to ensure that the child feels involved in the meal, either choosing the menu or helping to cook it.

ILoveAFullFridge Thu 28-Feb-13 15:14:37

When our dc were very little it was easy to have family meals, but as they get older and have various after-school/evening activities, it has got harder to achieve. So we don't fret about it. Weekends we always eat together. Weekday nights we will sometimes eat together, sometimes in shifts. But Friday nights are always a leisurely roast dinner, which the dc in particular look forward to.

I think it's a mistake to always try to eat as a family. Patents need couple-time, and dc need the opportunity to enjoy a meal without "elbows off the table", "eat with your mouth shut", "cutlery!" etc.

CredulousThicko Thu 28-Feb-13 15:19:25

Two things that I read in a baby book or magazine early on which have saved my sanity quite often:
1. If they won't eat the veg, don't worry, provide fruit with the meal instead, it's just as good apparently, if a bit strange.

2. Don't stress about what they have eaten on any specific day, look at what they have eaten over a week or a month (and also of course, how they are growing etc.) Basically don't focus on the food too much is what it was saying!

This is all easier when they get a bit older anyway, I try to plan meals a bit but not too much - give them some choice 'what shall we have tonight?' within reason. Sometimes it's leftover picnic tea, i.e. everything from the fridge on little plates, help youself, alongside something substantial.

I was always forced to clear my plate even if I was full/it was a food I didn't like (1970's and 80's, sometimes I was sat at the table for hours) so that's something I have never done with my children (amongst many other things), I want to keep it light and pleasant as much as possible, seems obvious that it's better for everyone.

flyinfairy Thu 28-Feb-13 16:05:56

I am a stay at home mum with a 10 month old. WeI think that it is very important to eat together at meal times and try to eat with him whenever he has a propper meal. He is a little sponge at the moment watching and absorbing everything i do and as such i think he needs to be shown a good example of how to eat and interact at the dinner table. He is allowed to explore his food though and we talk to him/each other as we eat.

My little one needs an afternoon snack to keep going but as long as i have tea nearly done by the time my OH gets home then he can normally wait and eat with us. He gets so excited to see his daddy that i think this helps him to eat. If my husband works late though we often eat without him as little one seems to go past his hunger and then not want to eat. Im sure waiting will get harder aswel once he gets older.

musthavecoffee Thu 28-Feb-13 16:07:03

We eat together at weekends. Our son can be fussy with foo, but we've found that telling him what to expect for dinner makes all the difference.
Sitting down to eat as a family is important, it's a special time to share our day/weeks happenings with each other.

CWest30 Thu 28-Feb-13 16:10:19

I have 2 children, a son aged 5 and a 5 month old baby girl.

Right from the start, both of mine have sat with us at teatime, next to the table in their bouncy chairs. As my husband works nights and my son is now at school it is the only time of day we can all be together and talk about our day/discuss problems etc.

I have always given everyone the same, home cooked food, apart from a takraways every sat, and if it isn't eaten then dessert is not an option. I believe children are more likely to eat food if they see mummy and daddy doing it. We turn the tv off and just enjoy each others company.

Soon, my daughter will be starting on solids, so she will be sitting at the table too in her high chair and trying everything we eat.

I do all this based on my own childhood experiences of meal times, which were full of laughter, and would often last over an hour. By contrast, my husband used to eat alone in the kitchen as a child, whilst his mum, step-dad and half sister ate together in the living room in front of the tv. I would NEVER put my kids through that!

asuwere Thu 28-Feb-13 16:17:59

we have 4 DC and have always eaten our meals together at the table. I was brought up like that so have felt it the mormal thing to do. I know several people who eat separately to their children and think it must make it more awkward to prepare 2 lots of meals!

I think if it was suddenly forced upon children, it would behard but if they've grown up with it then it's normal and just accepted. DD2 who is only 5 months, doesn't eat but still sits at table with us!

Main rule at meal time though is no TV/phone/gadgets/toys (DH is the worst culprit for breaking that rule!)

fledtoscotland Thu 28-Feb-13 16:21:33

DC are 4 & 5 and have very different tastes. DS1 will try anything once but isn't sure about spices. DS2 is wary of anything green but adores curry! Despite both mine and DHs shifts we try to sit down with the boys to eat most days as its important to chat over a meal and encourage conversation

Banderchang Thu 28-Feb-13 16:26:17

We have one DS (nearly 4) and we always eat our evening meal all together at about 5:45. Luckily DS is a fab eater so we never need to resort to bribes or anything. As others have said, we often ask each other what our favourite/worst part of the day was to reinforce the idea that mealtimes are for reconnecting with each other. Also we started eating in the dining room rather than the kitchen and that's made for more quality time because there's no temptation for anyone to get up and start pottering tidying or reading the post while waiting for others to finish (this happened in the kitchen).

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