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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

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 06-Mar-13 13:04:31

Hello - thanks for all your tips and comments - am pleased to say MrBloomsCherry wins the £150 supermarket voucher! Well done.

BoysWillGrow Tue 05-Mar-13 16:00:35

i have 2 ds's 5 and 2 so eating together up the table is important for them learning table manners. and for us and dp to catch up. Every evening meal is all of us and mornings is just myself and ds's and 7mo dd.
tips for getting them to stay at the table is to ask them to set it, with their own cutlery, plate and cups. and they have to have shown an effort or no dessert.

loubielou31 Tue 05-Mar-13 15:58:13

In general we all eat together and we all eat the same thing.
It has taken a lot of restraint to accept that my children are hard to feed. The rule in our house is you don't have to eat it but it stays on your plate and there is nothing else. Sometimes they go hungry, it's their choice.

When we have time (which is usually only at weekends) the children help prepare the meal. They will at least try something new if they've helped cook it.

On evenings when we will be eating at different times I will try and do something in the slow cooker.

I'm not sure mealtimes are fun. It's not a party, just part of our family routine where we all get together and have some time to talk.

GenericDietCola Tue 05-Mar-13 15:48:42

At the moment, I'm on mat leave and DH works at home so we all eat together. Since we've been doing this, I've noticed a huge improvement in DD's eating. she loves the fact that we all eat the same thing and also that we use the same crockery - we give her a side plate that matches our plates (she's 3 and a half). I tend to plan meals for the week, which involves eating the sane thing a couple of nights in a row so I don't have to cook every day. I also love my slow cooker as I can get a meal underway in the morning, which makes for less effort at the end of the day.

ProbablyJustGas Tue 05-Mar-13 13:49:30

We eat together probably 4-5 nights out of 7. When it's an organized week, we're managing because we've done something like make-ahead chicken or Crock Pot stew. On a disorganized week, we're managing because DSD (7) goes straight to bed after her tea. Sometimes, we'll make something quick for DSD to get her started and join her once our own tea is done. Sometimes, we settle for a single-item meal (soup, a bowl of spaghetti with chunky sauce, etc).There's more time to do a relaxed and varied roast dinner spread on the weekends.

I like eating together because it gives me and DH a chance to stop focusing on ourselves and focus on DSD for awhile. I think it gives DSD the same chance, TBH. She listens to me and DH talk and will pipe in with her own questions or opinion.

This all goes a lot more smoothly and according to plan when we leave the TV off.

PetiteRaleuse Tue 05-Mar-13 13:35:22

We eat late - at about 8pm but all eat as a family. DD1 is almost 2 and has a long nap after lunch and a snack at about 4. LO will start weaning soon but at the moment She always sits near the table and watches us or has milk at the same time.

DD1 'helps' prepare, in that I lift her up and show her each stage of food preparation and let her handle ingredients and smell them etc. If I am mixing things together she can mix too, or turn the dial on the food processor etc. If I am doing something messy like making burgers or fish cakes she gets stuck in too.

I think it is important to eat as a family at table and we have done so since DD1 was weaned. I don't see mealtimes as fun particularly, but DD1 really enjoys participating in the preparation, and it helps keep her occupied until her dad comes home which is the highlight of her day. In the long term there will be a no screen rule at table but at the moment the only rule is that teddy bears can sit and watch but we don't play with them while we are eating grin

Bananasinfadedpjs Tue 05-Mar-13 13:27:06

We eat together about 3 or 4 nights out of 7. On the days when we aren't eating all together, one or both adults will sit with the children (we have 2 children aged 5 and nearly 2) while they eat.

I think it's important to all eat together as a family when you can. As the children get older, then I'm hoping they'll be able to stay up a bit later and we can eat together more often - at the moment, they both need quite an early bedtime, but I find it difficult myself to want to eat at that time - and it's even worse for DH to get straight in from work to a meal on the table, with no time to relax and unwind. So we compromise to do it half the time.

I don't try to make mealtimes "fun". I hope they are enjoyable due to nice food(!) and a chance for a bit of conversation. DD1 likes to have a story read during dinner, we do that occasionally if it is just the children eating.

I can't wait for the nice weather when we can all eat outside - that always makes mealtimes "fun!"

attachmentmummy Tue 05-Mar-13 13:14:16

We always eat together, and encourage the children to help with all aspects of cooking and eating, from menu planning, choosing ingredients, chopping and preparing, cooking, to serving and eating! As a result of that and baby led weaning, both are brilliant eaters, thankfully!

xcxcsophiexcxc Tue 05-Mar-13 12:20:07

I think its really important otherwise wed never all be together as a family as my elder daughter likes to stalk of to her room. Its also a good chance to talk to my husband and first son about their day. I try to make food that looks funny, shaped like a face or so so my son will eat it, also I use desert as a big encouragement,

prakattack Mon 04-Mar-13 16:03:33

We try to eat together as often as we can but it's a struggle on the three days I work - I get home at 5.30 and the boys need to eat by 6 to be in bed for 7ish (they're 1 and 3).
Those days, they often eat by themselves (though I always try to sit down with them and chat) and DH and I eat later.
We eat together the days I don't work and at weekends (unless DH and I fancy takeaway or something unhealthy on a Friday night!).
My top tip, which I've only been doing myself for a few weeks, is to utilise a slow cooker. Then I can put something in before I go to work, or when I have a quiet half hour during the day, and it'll be ready when we get in from work, making getting dinner ready to eat together a lot less hassle when everyone's just getting home and there's bathtime to do etc etc etc!

choccyp1g Sun 03-Mar-13 10:05:53

It's only me and DS so we always eat together, and when he has friends round I take it for granted that they'll sit at the table.

If there is something particular that DS wants to watch on TV, I'll try to arrange the meal around that within reason, otherwise he will wolf it down to get back to the football. When we have grown-up friends, I'll often let the youngster(s) go to play for a while and come back later for pudding, as the adults will just be talking for ages which he would sometimes find boring.

I notice at friends houses with several children, it is much harder to eat together, as they have to co-ordinate with different activities.

hermancakedestroyer Sat 02-Mar-13 17:31:35

We all sit together as a family to eat our evening meal. We have no distraction of television or technology and use it as a time to catch up with each other and hear each others news. One evening a week my children (7 and 10) choose a meal that they want to cook, write down the ingredients that they need to buy and then go with me to the supermarket to buy them. One of them makes the main meal and the other makes dessert and then the following week they swap round. I believe that sitting and eating our meals together has made them 'very good eaters' as they have seen my husband and I eating a variety of meals and setting a good example. Obviously like most households our lives are hectic with after school clubs etc. but we try to spend whatever time we have together at the table together. smile

Cherrybright Fri 01-Mar-13 21:22:35

We eat dinner together nearly every night. We normally eat 5 mins after dh comes in, so it gives us a chance to find out about each others days, talking is important to us. Its stress free, none of us have to finish our meals if we have had enough. We usually try and have fun with dd after dinner smile

Floweryhat Fri 01-Mar-13 20:32:19

We have DCs aged 7, 5, 3 and a 7 month old baby. We all eat together at 6pm, and always have done. It means a substantial late afternoon snack to keep them going. For me the most practical tip is to plan in advance and if possible cook in advance too. I have big batches of stuff in the freezer, or use the oven timer whilst toing and froing to after school activities.

The biggest challenge is finding meals that all will eat (at least some of), but that DH and I don't find too boring blush. I miss stir frys and curries sad.

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.

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!

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!

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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