Anything that makes meal times with little ones easier is a plus for most families. Special rituals, as well as favourite cutlery and plates, can make dinner times less challenging and a lot more fun!
We asked the Essential Baby Facebook fans what works for them at mealtimes, including family rituals and cutlery. Here are some of their answers – use them as inspiration to help your baby or toddler enjoy mealtimes even more.
1. "We make sure that we all sit at the table to eat together – our baby loves being part of the family meal with his big siblings. It means my husband and I eat pretty early, but it's worth it when we get that family time in at the end of the day."
2. "Our almost 2-year-old has a matching plate, bowl, cup, fork and spoon set, and he knows they're his and just for meal times."
3. "My little one loves her special placemat. It doesn't matter what her crockery and cutlery are, as long as she has her bear placemat!"
4. "My daughter needs the same cup, filled with water, at the table with her every night. It's so much easier to settle her once everything is in its place."
5. "We've accidentally created a ritual with my son – no one is allowed to eat until we say 'cheers' and clink our cups together. It's actually nice as it makes sure we're all present and paying attention to one another at the start of the meal."
6. "My 18-month-old is getting eight teeth at once and wasn't eating until my sister suggested going back to using rubber baby spoons. Now he has been eating much more because the hard spoons aren't hurting his mouth."
7. "We make sure everyone washes their hands before dinner – including the baby, but I just use wipes on his hands. It doesn't sound like a lot but it's a good habit to get into, even when they're that little, and it means it's time to head to the table afterwards."
8. "When my son was younger we resorted to using a small plastic toy tractor with a scoop on front as his 'spoon' … it worked well for him!"
9. "Growing up, my mum used to light a candle as a centrepiece – it was part of the dinnertime ritual, and signified the start of the meal (time to stop playing and sit down to eat). Now that I have a baby and a toddler I've adapted this and use a battery-operated candle to do the same thing."
10. "It's not a ritual as such, but it's the one thing that happens every night: the TV goes off! If our little girl can even hear the TV in the background she gets distracted and less likely to eat, so it's off before the food hits the table."
11. "My son suddenly refused to use the plastic cutlery he had been using. My mum thought maybe it was because us adults used metal cutlery, so she bought him his own tea spoon and cocktail fork. From then on he has eaten using them without a problem."
12. "We start every meal with a blessing. It's just one line basically saying we're grateful for the food, so as my son grows he'll be able to join in and say it himself."
13. "When we start dinner we turn on some soothing music. I like to think it helps keep things calm ... well, it helps keep me calm at least!"