I have encountered a huge range of situations with families doing all sorts of things to keep their children at the table – some working well and some not so much.

Every child and family is different, so I ask you two questions to help you decide:

  1. What is your child’s (behavior) telling you? Is your child happy to be there, are they showing you that they are done, or something else?
  2. How do you feel? Do you feel mealtimes are going well or do you find yourself battling your child?

The answer is not as straightforward as one might expect.

It involves creating an environment that gives your child a good chance to sit down long enough to feed themselves enough food, and gradually learn to enjoy other aspects of the family meal such as interaction, conversation and connection.

In general, younger children are likely able to sit down to a meal for much shorter periods of time, particularly as they develop their social skills and learn to eat, as well as understand what is expected of them at the family meal.

As children get older, we can expect them to be able to sit for longer periods of time, as they learn how to meet their own needs and be considerate of the needs of others.

If we were to talk minutes, it could be as little as 5 minutes up to 15 – 20 minutes.

Check out this helpful article from the Ellyn Satter Institute to help you decide: How long should kids stay at the table?

If you’d like some support to make sense of your child’s dinnertime behaviour and sort out what will work for your family, drop us a line – we’d be happy to support you.

How long do your kids sit at dinner?

Eat Happy!
Inés Astudillo
Accredited Practising Dietitian