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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

GaryBuseysTeeth Thu 28-Feb-13 16:34:01

It's important for us to eat (the same thing) together as a family, DS is only 14months..but DH works shifts so isn't home every evening.
It's important for DS to have the level of interaction with his food & us at the same time, and as a couple it's the time we use to talk about things before settling in for the night.

I never had meals around the table as a child & DH was a latchkey kid so being there together to eat & discuss the day as a family is something we're keen to do as DS grows up.

No phones/gadgets & no swearing at the table (last one in general!) are our rules.

Honestyisbest Thu 28-Feb-13 16:48:50

This more challenging for me as i have teenagers! I ensure we all sit at the table and I don't mind if we watch a quiz or something whilst we chat, its ok to have some tv in the background. Teens find it easier to talk then. I try and cook something different each day and try new recipes to keep their diet varied.

lorisparkle Thu 28-Feb-13 16:49:30

We eat together as a family most nights and in the day I eat with DS3. At the moment it is fairly simple as DH is home by 5.30pm which is tea time and that suits everyone.

I do think it is important to eat together but sometimes 'life happens'. Tonight is Beavers which means DH eats with DS2 and DS3 and I eat with DS1 when we come home. Otherwise it would be too late for DS2 and DS3 to go to bed. Currently the boys are 6,4, and 2 and this is the only 'club' we do however I can imagine it will get more complicated as the boys go to more clubs.

Eating together is easier for me as I only have to prepare one meal and clear the table once. It also means that we can monitor and model table manners and encourage a wide variety of tastes. It is also important to develop conversation skills and as the boys get older give them an opportunity to share important parts of the day.

We don't make any effort to make meal times 'fun'.

AlisonMoyet Thu 28-Feb-13 16:52:03

Whys it needing to be such an issue. You cook food and serve if? Sometimes together sometimes seperately.

FernieB Thu 28-Feb-13 18:59:39

We always eat together - it's easier for me as I only cook and clear up once and it's better for the family as we all sit together and talk together. It's a chance for the kids to voice their ideas and opinions and for us to discuss issues together. We all eat the same thing and I make sure that everyone gets one of their favourite meals at some point during the week. I can monitor table manners which is something I'm keen on.

Tortington Thu 28-Feb-13 19:01:40

i posted this one in the boots one - but its as appripriate here

to help children with eating and diet - involve them in shopping and cooking.

think about your expectations at the table. I often think a lot of people ( not just parents) expect a lot from small children at meal times. I think meal times should be fun, a time for talking and laughter, not stict rules. of course there are good manners - which is quite different.

A the table we had a routine of each asking someone at the talbe " what did you do today?" i think children are inatley self centred, so this is a good excersise in teaching them to listen to other people and feel for other people too. so i wouldnt be fussed about whether the fork was held in left hand but would if they were texting

joanofarchitrave Thu 28-Feb-13 19:04:30

I think it's really easy to build up more and more rules around eating and eating together - I've been guilty of that sometimes. It's a golden opportunity to nudge my dc towards better manners, but if I'm not careful, conversation degenerates to a series of 'don'ts' barked by me, interspersed with attempts to prod the dc into talking about the day.

An invaluable tip I have that really works is to make statements, rather than ask questions, so 'I wonder if football club happened today' is quite likely to elicit a response, as opposed to 'Were you in goal?'

whattodoo Thu 28-Feb-13 19:12:45

We have a 4 yo DD. She has school dinners, then tea when she gets home.

I cook for DP and myself's dinner after she has gone to bed which is 6pm so not really feasible for us all to eat together.

At weekends we eat all our meals together. Saturday's supper is generally something we make together eg pizzas and Sunday is a traditional roast.

We like to make it fun and enjoyable just by chatting or having fun candles or fun crockery etc.

Midweek DD enjoys helping to prepare her tea, arranging the food into a face or calling it by silly names or trying new recipes from children's cookbooks.

DisAstrophe Thu 28-Feb-13 19:13:03

Inviting round Grandad or Uncle Joe who live nearby always makes it fun for my kids. We have sharing food like pizza, salad and garlic bread. For the kids having extra people makes it feel special and like a tea party.

HobKnob Thu 28-Feb-13 19:17:34

We eat together every evening, always have done. It's important for us to do this as a family. However now the girls are a bit older (4 and 2) they've really enjoyed having their friends round for tea, or going to someone else's house. They've eaten things there which they wouldn't eat at home, so a very positive experience.

Bakingnovice Thu 28-Feb-13 19:18:11

We eat as a family at least 90% of the time. It's important for us to know how the kids day went, the highs the lows, and I personally like feedback on new recipes! It's also a good chance for us to recharge and have a laugh together. We don't do anything to make it fun but there is always one story from some one around the table which makes everyone laugh. It's important to me that we eat together as I worked long hours for many years, do now I don't work I make an effort to be together. It's not always easy with different aged kids and different schedules but we manage.

On a selfish note, nothing gives me more pleasure than everyone sat around living my food.

We used to find it difficult to eat together, as a family, when dh was commuting to work, and didn't get in until 7 or 7.30pm - far too late for their tea. Plus their normal tea time, 5pm, was too early for dh and I.

We did eat together at lunchtime, at the weekends, and enjoyed talking to the boys.

As they have got older, we have eaten together more, simply because they can now eat later, and dh has a much shorter commute. We don't allow phones or iPods at the table, so we have to talk and listen. We also make it fun by sometimes doing things like wraps, where the boys get to decide what they want in their wraps, from the choice available.

I also think encouraging children to cook makes them more likely to enjoy the food.

starfishmummy Thu 28-Feb-13 19:22:41

Dhaka gets home around 5.30 and we sit down together at 6. Ds has SN and used to have big issues around eating - in fact he ate nothing for years (tube fed) but would still sit with us while we ate. These days he tends to eat one meal a day in the evening so we do make an effort to have something nice together. Roasts are a particular favourite with ds; and ifnI day we are having leftovers he gets very excited!!

Snog Thu 28-Feb-13 19:55:25

We used to eat together every day, but currently dp and I both work full time, often come home late, and are both on diets!
We now eat together Tues, Fri,Sat & Sun plus a meal out together once or twice a month.
Sunday is always a roast cooked by dp and the other meals we eat together are home cooked and delish so no need to make them "fun" really. Our dd is 13. We always eat at the table and the TV is never on except when I manage to occaisionally sneak a friday or saturday tv supper with dd which comes at the price of a big sulk by dp!!!

peronel Thu 28-Feb-13 20:49:53

We eat together, at the table most of the time but our favourite mealtime is on a Sunday. I set up the card table and we have afternoon tea with cups and saucers, a cake stand piled high with various goodies, sandwiches, etc. In the winter we have a roaring fire and usually watch something like Blandings or one of the Famous Five DVD's. Very cosy - try it!

youmaycallmeSSP Thu 28-Feb-13 21:21:48

DS is 3 and DD is 3 months. We eat a meal together at the table every day. DH and I both feel that eating as a family is really important as a time to catch up on the day's events, practising conversation, taking turns speaking and teaching the DC table manners. DH has a long commute but he leaves the office on time to make it home for dinner and the DCs' bedtimes, carrying on working on his laptop at home after that if he needs to.

DS likes helping me in the kitchen and I try to involve him as much as possible at each stage of the food preparation: letting him choose the ingredients when we're shopping, asking him to get things from the fridge, helping him to mix, pour and measure ingredients or just sitting him up on the counter so he can watch me. DD is often quite restless in the evening so I put her in my baby carrier so I have my hands free.

stephgr Thu 28-Feb-13 21:53:44

I think it's really important to eat together as a family. It doesn't matter whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner provided everyone can sit down, eat and talk with each other ideally once a day. We try always to have at least one meal a day where we sit and eat together. Phones, tv and radio etc are always switched off when we're having a meal together. It's a great way to chat about any problems anyone has, how the children are feeling but also I think it helps with manners/behaviour.

eteo Thu 28-Feb-13 22:00:49

since my children is very young, we let them leave the table once they finish their food. now both are 3 & 5, they wont listen to stay at the table till we all had finished food. any ideas how to prevent them from leaving the table till all finish?

tigger32 Thu 28-Feb-13 22:27:22

I have 3 children aged 3, 6 and 9 and we all eat together (the 5 of us) about 5 nights a week. The others are either dc at grandma's if dh and I are both working or dc and me. I find it's a good time to sit and talk and listen to each other. We share our days and sometimes discuss family outings/ holidays etc.
However, it's not always happy chatting and laughter as it only takes 1 child to be tired or unhappy and dinner turns into a nightmare!
I feel it's an important time to be a family and great for teaching table manors and listening skills hmm

maxmissie Thu 28-Feb-13 23:10:32

I think it's important for families to eat together as much as possible and to sit at the dining table to do this. It means everyone can chat together and helps to teach children about table manners.

We started to eat together four nights a week (weekends and when I'm at home) and it has made such a difference to my daughter's eating habits, as she is now a lot less picky then when she ate just with her brother and will make a lot less fuss as there is less attention on her. It also means we only have to cook one meal on those days.

The nights when we don't eat together (when dh and I are both at work) work OK, and it is nice to eat just with dh, but it also means that we have to sort out two meals at two different times.

Fairymitzi Thu 28-Feb-13 23:11:44

i serve my two boys there dinner and eat a snack with them as i KNOW i'll finish their leftovers, which means i dont eat double... this has helped me drop 4 dress sizes so i'd definatley recommend it smile

CheeryCherry Fri 01-Mar-13 06:34:24

We have always sat at the table for main meals from the times the dcs were weaned. When they were little my DH worked until late, so we ate as a 4. Now they are all teens, we eat mainly together, depending on who is home and when. But we have sneaky 'pizza in front of the tv' Fri/Sat nights too now which feel like a treat!
Now they are older that evening meal time is where we share information, about the day, plans for the week, ideas and opinions. It's a light hearted time, phones are banned, but something that is just habit now in our house. And essential for communication.

CambridgeBlue Fri 01-Mar-13 07:04:48

I've always felt it's important to eat together, at the table (mostly), but it's only recently that it's been possible for us. For years my DH commuted to London so wasn't getting home until around 8 which meant I either ate with DD or waited and ate with him but we rarely had a meal together except at the weekend.

Now however, he has a more local job and is home by 5. It means we can eat together every night and I'm really glad - it's a chance to catch up and chat about each other's days. Mealtimes in the week are still more of a rush because of various evening commitments but it's more relaxed at the weekend when we tend to have meals that take a bit longer (to prepare and eat), often 'help yourself' stuff like Mexican which DD loves.

We do sometimes do pizza or something in front of the TV especially on a Friday when everyone just wants to flop but we're still eating together and that's the most important thing to me.

MyLifeIsStillChaotic Fri 01-Mar-13 09:02:35

We eat together pretty much every night (DCs are 4.2yo and 2.7yo)

I regularly get faced with 'I don't like that' by my 4yo the second he claps eyes on his meal, but the fact that we all eat together and discuss what it is means that he will usually at the very least try the meal, if not polish it off after discovering it is nice after all.

As he is so fussy I try to get him involved in meal planning and ask him to help pick a meal or two for the list. This enables a discussion over what kinds of food aren't very good for us and which food types are better etc. I also sometimes go through a recipe book with him and look at the pictures, getting him to tell me what he would like to try.

I think it is important to eat together, and I say this as someone who used to cook for the DCs at 4.30/5pm and then again for me and dh at 7.30pm until as recently as Christmas/New Year. It is bloody tiring, let me tell you. So it is beneficial for me to only have to cook once, and I believe it is beneficial for the DCs to see everyone eating the same/similar meals. I try to do one meal a week/fortnight that they haven't had before and encourage them to try new things. Another benefit is that my oldest, who really struggles with cutlery and always eats with his hands, sees his parents and his brother eating with cutlery and I hope that one day it will become more natural for him to use cutlery rather than handle his food. Other things with regard to table manners are also enforced and shown as an example, such as sit on your chair properly (don't hang off the side with one foot on the floor as my 4yo seems to want to do all the time) and don't mess about with food (namely throwing).

I can't compare teatimes with teenagers etc. but I will say that I only felt that eating together was manageable recently. Before my youngest was 2yo if we ever ate together, I spent the whole time 'doing things' instead of eating - I like to enjoy a meal and found it much less stressful to eat once they were in bed. Now they eat at the table happily I like that we eat together. I also make sure there's a jug of water on the table, otherwise the second I sit down, someone has finished their drink and is after more water!

So in summary I think my tips would be:
Make sure everything is on the table before you sit down to eat, so it's more relaxed
Get children involved in meal planning.
Introduce new foods alongside food you know the DCs already like
Try to eat the same thing around the table, then the DCs are more likely to try it (imho)
Instill table manners (too many people don't seem to think this is important anymore)

unquietmind Fri 01-Mar-13 09:08:12

We eat together during the week but the kids seem to talk less when we are in the room - they squabble like mad if we leave the table or are not eating for some reason, but sometimes their laughter is great. I always make them eat tea together as its part of our family life. MY elder kids share the jobs of cleaning the kitchen everynight so its part of the communal idea and getting to work together. I think the hardest part of getting together is that everyone is tired from all their commitments and just want to eat their tea. I try and do their favourite meals and that gets them talking, or I start a conversation on something I know they cant resist discussing. ;)

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