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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

Tee2072 Thu 28-Feb-13 08:18:50

Since my son is only 3.8 it's not really hard for us to do, except when my husband or I need to be working during dinner time, which is actually, at the moment, rare.

But we do all eat together 7 days a week without too much effort other than the actual cooking.

I would imagine once my son starts 'real' school and starts to have after school activities and/or friends 'round or what have you it will take more of an effort. I do think it is a very important thing to do so the family can share about their day. To get my son talking we ask 'what was your favourite part of today' and 'what was your least favourite part of today' of each person at the table.

Kveta Thu 28-Feb-13 08:32:15

my children are still young (3.5 years and 8 months), but I always eat with them - and 5 days a week, DH eats with us too. We try to chat about the day with DS, but currently it's more of a containment exercise, as DD is doing baby led smearing, and can be messy.

we don't try to make mealtimes fun - they are just part of the day. At weekends, DS helps me make a cake or pudding, and enjoys that, plus it's a good incentive for him to eat his meal before he can have dessert!

FoxyRevenger Thu 28-Feb-13 08:47:49

We have a 2.9 year old and a 6 month old and we eat together every night - except at weekends if we decide to treat ourselves to a take away.

We always chat about our day, but we also always have some music on in the background. We usually end up chair dancing and quite often the baby is dragged into playing air guitar. For some reason his sister chooses to play 'air violin.' smile

mummyofcutetwo Thu 28-Feb-13 11:44:43

We have a nearly five year old and a nearly one year old. I find it difficult to get all four of us to sit down to eat together as my husband works different days every week and different shifts every day, and largely doesn't get home until after 8. We eat together whenever we can though, and I sit down with the boys for a snack while they have their tea, which probably isn't good for my waistline, but it does mean we get to have a good teatime chat etc. I tend to have my dinner with DH whatever time he gets home else he won't eat anything himself. Ideally we'd all eat together, but currently it just isn't feasible.

To make trips to the supermarket more fun I used to do a picture shopping list of 5-10 items especially for DS1. Now I either give him a written list or test his memory by giving him five things to remember. He loves it, and it makes him feel part of the household. We make meals fun by talking about our day rather than watching tv. It's amazing what he remembers about his day at school over a plate of fish fingers and peas!

MissRee Thu 28-Feb-13 12:52:30

As I commute to/from London every day, I often don't get home until close to 7pm. As a result of this, DD gets dinner with her carer and myself and DP eat separately. We always make sure that we have a family meal on Saturdays and Sundays though.

I do think its important to eat as a family but it really is too late for DD to be eating by the time we get home.

WowOoo Thu 28-Feb-13 13:07:48

We eat together in the early evening whenever we can. That means dc and I 4 days a week and dh will join us on about 2 evening and weekends.

It's a time for general chatting.
With a 3 yr old and a 6 yr old random questions will appear out of nowhere : 'Why don't dragons have willies?/What would happen if all the sea water evapourated?'

I like to discuss the day if i can get a word in and remind dc of things they need to do or things that we're going to do later in the week.

I have quiet music on in the background always so I can listen to something nice when that lovely 'let's eat' silence kicks in and the children are quite for 4 mins. smile

CMOTDibbler Thu 28-Feb-13 13:14:49

DS has a hot school lunch, and food at after school club, so we don't eat formally as a family in the evening. But we do all sit down with a cuppa for a chat while ds has his snack.

At the weekend, we all eat together for all meals, and ds enjoys choosing the food for dinner when we are out shopping. He likes to browse the fish and deli counter, which can result in suprising choices - the only rule is that he chooses it he has to eat (at least some of) it.

iYawn Thu 28-Feb-13 13:19:58

My DH doesn't come home until after the DC are in bed.
So we only eat together on Sats and Suns and I don't eat supper with them except when it's fishfingers when I put an extra couple in for me...

I do spend a lot of time saying EAT up.

Jins Thu 28-Feb-13 13:22:32

This has changed significantly for us over the years

I have always felt that it is valuable for us all to sit to eat together where possible but due to work patterns we are unable to eat together until 7.30 - 8pm

When the children were preschoolers they would eat earlier and sit with us while we ate. It was a great opportunity to introduce new foods as food off parents plates is far more appealing. Unfortunately they were virtually half asleep. When they started school they had a cooked meal at lunchtime so they ate a lighter meal at about 6pm and stayed up to say hello to Dad. We then ate after they were in bed.

As soon as they were old enough to wait we were able to eat together which was a fabulous opportunity to catch up on the day.

Just having the meal together is fun. It's great watching our one year old learn to eat and try new things, he's always funny and we encourage him to join in the conversation, because that's what I remember as a child - that chance to get your parents' undivided attention and talk to them about all sorts of things. Ds doesn't have many recognisable words yet, but he's definitely joining in the conversation and that's fun for all 3 of us smile

hayg Thu 28-Feb-13 13:25:02

In our house to my tea time successful the number one item is being organised, knowing in advance (where possible) what to make, and getting tea on the table just before they get too hungry. If I miss the mark sometimes they can get a little grumpy so I always aim for about 4.40pm. I also let it cool before I give to them so they don't get too impatient waiting for it too cool. Sometimes when they are really tired and just can't face eating we play little games, by pretending the bird outside is going to eat the dinner, then they quickly eat it! I'd say, stay relaxed and calm and then hopefully the kids will to!

TotallyEggFlipped Thu 28-Feb-13 13:26:24

DD is 2 and if I'm not working we eat all our meals together. If DH is home in time he eats dinner with us too. Unfortunately eating lunch and dinner early means DH and I have turned into terrible evening snackers after DD has gone to bed. It's important to me that we eat together as DD is very reluctant to taste anything new until she's seen me eat it about 20 times!

Wibblytummy Thu 28-Feb-13 13:26:31

We love to have dinner together and as my DS is under 2 this usually means I need to have food on the table quite soon after DH gets home from work. To make the timings work, I try to prep/make as much as I can of dinner in my DS's nap and then pull together at the last minute or in winter use the almighty slow cooker, so it's all nice and ready come 6pm! DS will always eat better when we eat as a family as he likes to steal food from our plates and thinks he is very clever stealing that carrot or broccoli from our plate and eating it all up!

ProfYaffle Thu 28-Feb-13 13:28:01

My dc are 8 (almost 9) and 6, we always eat together every night. We're lucky that dh has always had a job where he gets home in time for us to eat early enough for the dc. Eating round the table in the kitchen is just more practical for us, washable floor is a must, I can't imagine the state the living room carpet would be in if we ate in there! When the dc were small we had the kind of high chair that pulls right up to the table so they've never known any different.

We all enjoy the opportunity to chat, we have music on and are quite relaxed about the whole thing. I loved it when dd1 was a toddler and started sharing anecdotes from nursery at the tea table (I remember well the saga of Eddy The Baby standing on the garage and getting in trouble) Dh and I have always been interested in what they have to say so I think they've always felt included and happy to share the news of their day.

BornToFolk Thu 28-Feb-13 13:29:27

I'm a single parent to an only child so I think it would be quite weird if we didn't eat together! The only times we don't are when I work later and DS is looked after by his dad, at my house, so gives him leftovers from the freezer.
I prefer eating earlier with DS so that we get all the cooking/clearing up done before he goes to bed, then I have the evening to myself.

I'm not sure if I have any tips about how to make it successful - I cook food, we sit down and eat it! I do think it's important to sit at the table and talk to each other while we eat. We have really nice chats over dinner. We sometimes have the radio on, which can initiate conversation too. DS (5) usually sets the table and helps clear up afterwards and I think this is really important to get him involved in the daily chores (although he does moan about it!)

MrBloomsCherry Thu 28-Feb-13 13:30:59

We have a young school age girl, a toddler and a baby. Most evenings we all sit down for our evening meal as its the only time of day were all together.

We have the radio on low in the background. It adds a bit of atmosphere somehow. If its a special meal we light a couple of candles, which the kids love.

The most popular meals in our house are help yourself ones. So things like fajitas with nachos and chicken wings. Pizza, salad and chips. Some sort of platter to pick from. Kids love these and if we have anyone over for tea we always do a meal like this. Much more relaxed and social and enjoyable.

Always try to do healthy foods obviously, but if its unhealthy-like pizza, there's always a bowl of salad.

And at the weekends my dh and I have a late meal together once the kids are in ed. but we still sit down and have a light snack with the kids when they have their tea. To us, it's a very important time of day for us all to chat, discuss and share things. Also we all love food. All different types. So we enjoy sitting down and enjoying nice food. All very relaxed and enjoyable.

DH works until 11pm through the week so he only joins us at weekends, but me and the kids have great fun at tea times.

We stick on some music and all dance around the kitchen and the kids all help out with setting the table and getting tea ready. Its probably my favourite time of day because its all so relaxed.

We then sit down to eat and everyone chats about their day and plans for the next day, the table is the place for them asking the questions that have been bugging them through the day (no dd your thumb won't disappear like a lollipop if you suck it, no ds the world didn't crack because a squirrel fell to the centre of the earth and ran on a little marble, no dd an elephant and a lizard can't make a baby so don't worry).

Afterwards we blast out some music and get the dishes done (while singing into utensil microphones) and get cleared up before bed.

I think its very important to us as a family, because I have 4 children aged from 2 to 11 they tend to be off doing their own things after school so its a real family time where we are all in the same place doing the same thing.

titchy Thu 28-Feb-13 13:40:25

It's MUCH easier now that they're teens and go to bed later. We eat together every evening now, generally between 6.30 and 7.30 depending on what activities they have on.

The dcs take it in turn to cook (heat up in ds' case grin) once a week as well (they choose what we eat) and we try to make at least one meal a week something that we wouldn't ordinarily do - eat with chopsticks, try sushi, eat something really spicey etc to try and broaden our range.

We eat in the kitchen too - this tends to be more relaxed than sitting round the dining table formally, although we do that once a week of when we have friends over (kids eat with us when we have friends over as well - they not excluded from the meal, although we'll excuse them early when they've finished as we want to sit around drinking wine).

leelo Thu 28-Feb-13 13:40:54

what i find hard is having two fussy eaters and limited time to feed them as we have so many after school activities to go to and do homework. so food has to be cooked and ready within 30mins or less for us. at 4 and 8 my children have firm opinions on what they like so its roasts at the weekend when i have more time and help from dh to make a big dinner and during the week we do freezer meals or simple dinners like spaghetti and garlic bread for quickness otherwise i'd be late and children would have get a naughty dinner from chip shop. i like the holidays when i can be more adventurous with trying new recipes and get children to help. as i have more time and patience.

trikken Thu 28-Feb-13 13:42:41

We try to eat together but dh not always back by teatime but I always eat with the kids if possible.

Dd (3 yrs) is a joy at eating but ds (6 yrs)is very fussy
so I must admit I do find teatime rather stressful as ds will eat virtually nothing considered dinner type food. Getting any vegetable into him is virtually impossible.

I do think eating at the table is very important and this is why we try to keep it a part of our routine.

ouryve Thu 28-Feb-13 13:44:04

DH gets home from work at a reasonable time, so we do all eat together. Both of the boys have SN and can't be left alone together and nor can they wander around the kitchen, so I plan meals which take no more than about 40 minutes in the kitchen, once DH is home - so either fast or slow cooking is required.

Mealtimes are far from idyllic, though. DS1 gets very anxious and will often start asking the same obsessive questions, each mealtime. We do manage to have some constructive conversation, too, though and it can be a time when he will tell us about new things that are bothering him and we can try to work out plans to alleviate his difficulties. For most of the rest of the day, he is too busy with Other Stuff for that to happen.

jes73 Thu 28-Feb-13 13:52:04

I think it is very important for a family to eat together. It helps to get some quality family time together.
We all have our evening meal together. Its a great time as the children share in setting the table and clearing it so it gives them some responsiblity. It is also great fun for them (at least they think it is smile )
We also have special table trimmings for special occasions which the children look forward to.
It is also a chance for us to chat about our day and share a homecooked meal.
We love our meal times together.

BartletForTeamGB Thu 28-Feb-13 13:54:15

DS is 2.6yo and DD is 10 days old, but we have always tried to eat together most evenings of the week. We eat all of our meals at the table and I try to prep as much as I can the night before or during naptime. The slow cooker is used A LOT. I find DS eats a lot better if we are eating together and he sees us eating different things. He wants to try everything, but we don't comment on what he does and doesn't eat. Recently he's not been keen on broccoli but I've not been commenting on it and just carry on putting it on his plate, then last night he couldn't get enough of it!

ctoyno Thu 28-Feb-13 13:54:53

when we are all at home we eat together and have a good chat - it's nice to all be in the same place and to share meal times. Always we say 'thanks for cooking' to whoever made the meal, and there's no rules like finish all your dinner/eat this before pudding etc - just relaxed and fine really. Whoever is in the house will sit at the dining table to eat - we dont have telly anyway, and the radio is off during mealtimes - also no phones, toys, books at table - just a chance to be together and connect in a very ordinary and everyday way.

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