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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

Littlecherublegs Fri 01-Mar-13 10:58:53

We try to eat together when possible - make meal times a shared, family occassion.
DS is only 6 months old but he's in a highchair and is weaning so can now join in!
He loves it and so do we - though it can get messy!! smile

swallowedAfly Fri 01-Mar-13 12:01:28

when ds was younger we used to sometimes have a 'date' tea. this would mean laying the table really nicely and lighting candles and having nice glasses (trusting him to not break it) and making a big fuss of it. he used to love it.

nowadays i'd say we only eat tea together a couple of times a week. we are hungry at different times and are often eating different things especially as i'm trying to lose weight at the minute.

i think the whole 'must sit down and eat together every day' thing is probably true if it is the only time you spend together but ds and i have plenty of time together and there are certain bits of the day that our special 'together' times that aren't mealtimes or anything to do with food.

sometimes wonder if the whole 'family must sit down and eat a huge meal together' thing is as much of a food industry marketing creation as the 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' adage created by the likes of kelloggs.

i can think of nicer ways of being together, talking and having quality engagement than doing so between mouthfuls of food.

TheOneWithTheNameChange Fri 01-Mar-13 12:07:47

My son is only two but we always eat dinner together at the table. For me it's about creating good habits for the future. So my tip is to always make time for dinner together

misscph1973 Fri 01-Mar-13 13:07:25

This is a very high priority in our family. We are all very into food, talk about it lot and spend a lot of time cooking, so it comes very natural to eat together.

Dinner time is an important time where we as a family get to talk together. Obviously not every dinner time is as relaxed and enjoyable as we would like it to be, but we do try.

When the kids were small, I didn't particularly enjoy eating at 5.30pm, but now that they are 6 and 8, it's 6pm, and I am quite used to it. I do miss having late suppers, but there is a time and a place for everything!

We try to cook food that everybody likes. We usually eat the same food, no special food for anyone, although at the moment my 8 year old DD refuses to eat fish, but I expect that will pass. We always have a home cooked meal.

It does help that we both work from home and that we prioritise good food. I am happy to spend less money in other areas, but not food (I buy second hand clothes or in the sales).

My advice based on my experience is to avoid offering alternatives if the children don't want to eat what is being served. It will not hurt them to be hungry. It will hurt them to eat food that does not have the right nutrients. Try to cook food that everybody likes. Spend some time planning a week or few days ahead. Involve the children as soon as you they can (but not every day, as they might get bored with it and you might get very frustrated). My DS is happy to watch me cook and lay the table if I decide he can't help because it is too complicated or dangerous. My DD is becoming very good at offering help with things that she knows she can do.

GreenShadow Fri 01-Mar-13 13:09:20

Oldest DS is now 20 (youngest 13), so over the years, we've probably done most formats of 'teatime'

When the DC were young, they had a cooked lunch and light tea before DH came home. I usually ate with him then.

As they got older and started attending nurseries, we moved to a lighter lunch and main meal in the evening. Again, it had to be before DH came home to start with as he didn't get in until after 6.30.

Later still, once at school, we all started eating together in the evening (DH was getting home a bit earlier then) when possible, although DH would sometimes be a bit late and had to heat his up.

The time has got later and later - used to be 5pm, then 5.30, then 6.00pm. Now it tends to be 6.30ish.

mydadsdaughter Fri 01-Mar-13 13:09:26

We have always tried to eat as a family ever since my eldest son was born (he's 9 now), it's not always possible as I work shifts but its a crucial part of our family life. It sounds corny but it gives us a chance to chat about our days and its around the dinner table that we get to hear all the little snippets of information that the children don't usually tell us when distracted by other things (ie Lego, kindle, etc) For e.g. I want to be a dog called Bullseye and chase cats" DS 2 or their thoughts on the news " the man who said that disabled children shouldered be killed should be kicked out if I was a councillor I would kick him out"DS1 (where he heard about that I don't know maybe on the radio in his dad's car) so that's why mealtimes are important to us .

secretscwirrels Fri 01-Mar-13 13:19:28

I got it wrong at first.
It was very difficult to sit down together when DCs were small. They simply couldn't wait until DH was home from work. Consequently I used to cook twice, first for them at 5pm and then for us after they were in bed.
I always did a proper Sunday lunch though.
In hindsight I believe I should have made more effort as I think that it contributed to them being faddy.
What changed was when they were around 7/8 ish and bedtimes were creeping back. They showed an interest in what we were eating and started to eat with us on weekend evenings. I did a complete about turn and started to make sure we all ate together. It meant cooking slightly differently but they started to enjoy foods they would never touch before.

Now they are 15 and 17 and we eat together every night at the table. I firmly believe that meals together like this are one of the great pleasures and foundations of family life.

firawla Fri 01-Mar-13 13:33:37

its not that often we all sit together and eat at home, dh works long hours so he's not normally back before dcs are in bed. they also eat earlier than i would prefer to eat but i sometimes do eat with them and sometimes don't. i am always there and i do talk to them but i may be cleaning the kitchen etc while they eat rather than sitting down at the table. our kitchen table is actually not big enough to fit everyone sat round it at once so that makes it a bit difficult too (bigger table wont fit in the kitchen!)

MakingAnotherList Fri 01-Mar-13 13:48:17

I really enjoy our mealtimes.
We are a family of 7 and we always sit at the table together for our evening meal.
I have 2 teenagers, 2 primary school aged girls and a toddler.
I never cook separate meals, we all eat the same foods. Luckily all of the children love vegetables.
I do serve meals that one person doesn't like, spaghetti bolognese for example. DS-15 isn't keen on pasta so he'll have more of the sauce, less pasta and some french bread instead. DH doesn't like cauliflower so he gets a smaller portion of that but extra carrots etc.
The children like to discuss what they've accomplished or enjoyed during the day.
Sometimes we play 'I spy' or discuss an upcoming event/holiday.
Everybody sits at the table until we've all finished eating.
Towards the end of the meal we'll put on some music and the girls sing along. The toddler likes to dance too and enjoys making his siblings laugh.
Meal times in our home are one of my favourite things.
DD-6 nearly always helps me to cook too. She loves being in the kitchen with me and we listen to music, sing and dance when I'm cooking.

Tommychoochoo Fri 01-Mar-13 13:58:19

I have ds6 and ds3. We eat together at the table 6 nights a week together. On Saturdays we have dinner in the lounge watching a film. We are lucky that dh gets home around 5ish so we eat together at 6. My boys eat anything and everything and I think it's because they eat whet we eat whether its curry or steak. I would hate to cook 2 meals a night and make different dinners for who eats what.

ivykaty44 Fri 01-Mar-13 14:03:06

We eat together in the evening, I feel it is important as we can chat about our day and listen to each others stories of what has been happening and we usually laugh.

It is also important that all family members are involved in preparing the table, carrying dishes and helping clearing afterwards, it promotes team work and that is what we are a team - I don't run a hotel.

I have 6 years between eldest and youngest and youngest was often feed at nursery, but always sat tot he table for dinner to join in the chatter - she was given a small supper snack so that she also had something to eat and felt part of family dinner time.

Making tea time at the table work is doing it regular so that it is habit and everyone knows how to eat at the table, letting each person talk and have their turn and not rushing and how to help out before and after.

i have sat with frustrated parents at a table and they don't usually eat at the table and get frustrated at doing all the work and then the children don't sit for long or don't behave as they wish, this is due to the parents not the children

keely79 Fri 01-Mar-13 14:19:04

I struggle to get home in time for dinner on a weekday as the kids are 3.5 and 1 so they eat early! However, on the weekends, even if I'm not eating with them, I'll sit down at the table with them and we'll talk about the day. I also try to get my DD to "help" me cook the meals (she'll grate cheese, mash up potatoes, etc.) so that she feels involved.

PigeonStreet Fri 01-Mar-13 14:31:45

We always eat breakfast and dinner together so in general the kids are well used to it as a standard part of the day. If there is a wait between main course and pudding we play games like 'daddy or chips' where a person has to choose between 2 objects or things. Or after dinner we stay at the table and play board games. Otherwise if it's a special occasion the kids make place name cards and choose decorations for the table.

PigeonStreet Fri 01-Mar-13 14:35:35

Ooh I forgot something. When our kids used to struggle with taking turns to speak during dinner, we had a little wooden figure that we took turns to hold when it was your turn to speak. That helped a lot.

serendipity1980 Fri 01-Mar-13 14:54:49

I think it is really important for families to eat together because it is a good opportunity to talk and listen to each other and hear about each other's day. We have a 3 yr old and a 4yr old who can be picky eaters but we take the approach that if they don't eat their dinner, there isn't anything else. We all eat the same, I don't think it's a good idea to be cooking different meals. I also hope that in time they will be more accepting of all meals! Both children sit nicely at the table, there can be a bit of playing around, but generally they are good. I think that's because we have always sat down together for mealtimes.

Cantharellus Fri 01-Mar-13 15:09:35

it's harder as your children get older. I have 2 teens and they are always out doing different things, as are DH and I, now we are getting our 'own' lives back a bit! And the boys are less family orientated, and craving independence.
We always strive for at east two nights a week which we do manage to eat evening meal together, and these are 'sacred' though other people are welcome to join us. We also encourage the boys to make a youtube /spotify playlist to provide music for the meal. it's not always our taste, but it encourages converstion and bonding and the boys love showing off 'their' music to us oldies.

HannahLI Fri 01-Mar-13 15:43:13

We always try and eat together and think its really important. My husband often comes in from work eats with us then will do more work so that he can be their! The evenings my husband isn't home the children don't eat as well, and they miss the catching up time we have all together.
We eat just after 5 usually and we sometimes have an extra snack in the evening to make up for it being so early but we have really seen the benefits of eating together.

Tinkerisdead Fri 01-Mar-13 16:03:11

I have two dd's aged 4 and 1 and my dh doesnt get home until 8pm. Once dd2 was weaned i used to make dh and i dinner at 8 and plate up a meal for the dd's to eat the following day. It was less stressful as i merely warmed their meal. But dd1is extremely picky and left to her own devices sat at the table meant she ate hardly anything and dd2 saw no good behaviours.

Now i make a family meal for me and the girls and plate dh his up. The change in eating has been massive. Dd1 is getting more adventurous with food. Dd2 tries to copy her with cutlery etc. we talk about our days and its a far nicer affair. At weekends we make sure we all eat together at every meal including dh. Dd1 prefers it if we have a "help yourself" tea so weekends we have a roast decanted into terrines or something that requires construction like chilli/nachos/rice. We have a much more enjoyable time if we are all helping ourselves around the table chatting.

Babycarmen Fri 01-Mar-13 16:14:59

I have a DD age 5 and a DD age 1, I think it's very important to sit at the table together as a family as much as possible, it's usually just me and the girls due to OHs working hours. It helps teach them how to eat when they are young and helps to teach and I force table manners too which I think is very important. We all eat the same meal usually, the only time I cook them something different to us is if we are having something really spicy for example. It is also a great opportunity for us all to communicate and talk about our day together.

MegBusset Fri 01-Mar-13 16:32:28

I seem to be in the minority here! We rarely have "family teatime" at home, for the following reasons:

1. DH doesn't get home til 6.30ish and the kids (3 and 6) are on their way to bed by then.
2. If I ate at 5 with the kids I would need another meal before bedtime and soon be the size of a house.
3. Finding things we all like is complicated by the fact that DH and I are both veggie, whereas DS1 is allergic to nuts, egg, sesame and pulses.

I have berated myself about this in the past but come to the conclusion that there are bigger things to worry about in life. The boys always have meals at the dinner table and I'll either float about doing chores or sit and have a cup of tea with them, in either case we are chatting about their day or other random things. We eat lunch in restaurants reasonably often (and dinner on holiday when the kids stay up later) and they are generally impeccably behaved.

DifferentNow Fri 01-Mar-13 16:36:43

We all eat together at the dining table for pretty much every meal. Me, DH and 4 DC. I'm a SAHM so I get to hear all the chat throughout the day but the DC take it in turns to update Daddy on what's happened in their day. Our evening meal is pretty much always cooked from scratch and the kids get involved in the shopping for and preparing the meal. We grow veg sometimes too and the kids love it. I have a 'one meal for everyone' rule whereby I promise not to give them yukky dinners but I will only ever cook one meal which we will all eat. Sometimes if I feel it's getting a bit samey, we have a buffet-style dinner which the kids love. I use platters and include some treats that would not normally be given at dinner time.

AllSWornOut Fri 01-Mar-13 17:08:51

We always eat together as a family (except breakfast as DH leaves earlier). I think it's important to sit and spend time calmly all together as the week is so hectic it's nice to chat and catch up on each other's days. DC is only 2 though so conversation is a bit limited, but I think it's a good template to give him as he grows up.

I wouldn't say we make teatime fun as such but I try to get DC involved in laying the table so he can see there's more to it than just turning up and sitting down. It's also an opportunity to teach DC our family culture/manners as DH and I both work FT (although our CM is pretty hot on proper behaviour already).

nextphase Fri 01-Mar-13 17:10:47

We all eat breakfast together on work days, and one parent has breakfast with the kids at the weekend (the other has the lie-in!).

Always have dinner with the kids at the weekend.
Sometimes we just run out of time in the week. On a Mon and Tues, I try really hard to do a non bread based meal, as oldest gets sandwiches. The other days he gets a cooked lunch at Nursery, so if i have to work late, they have a easy meal (scrambled eggs, beans etc), and we eat later.

Not sure how I'm going to help Birdseye tho - think the only things we have of theirs is petti pois!

Littleorangetree Fri 01-Mar-13 17:34:36

We eat dinner together most nights as I think it's important to eat together as a family. It gives us time to chat about our day and enjoy our food. We generally eat the same foods unless it's something the kids don't like e.g. a very spicy dish.

We always ate together as a family in the evening when I was a child and it's something I've carried on with my own children. I don't think the age of kids makes much of a difference, though babies and toddlers find it more difficult to sit still for any length of time!

LentilAsAnything Fri 01-Mar-13 18:02:56

We have a toddler. We eat together every night, apart from the rare occasions DH is late home, in which case, DS and I eat earlier. DS will still be awake when DH gets home, and sometimes share his meal for a second serving. smile
I can't imagine us ever wanting to eat at a different time to our DC. It's lovely eating together. I think it is a nice family thing to do, so start as we mean to go on. We always all have the same food for dinner, DS ate whatever we had right from the off.
We don't always eat at the table, we think it's nice to sit on the floor sometimes, or on the sofa, and feel relaxed and comfortable. I don't think this is a bad thing.
DS always helps make dinner too.

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