Table tips to take stress out of family meals

Adding some fun to your family table can also help curb picky eating! To pump up the joy in your kitchen, try these age-by-age tips from Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D., author of “Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids.”


Ages 1 to 3

Children are very aware of their own smallness, which often makes them delighted by other small things, including food. Try cutting sandwiches into minis. Accompany them with teeny pops: Pour 100 percent juice or yogurt into an ice tray, cover with foil, then insert a cake pop stick into each cube.

Experiment with giant foods too. Instead of many silver dollar pancakes, for instance, serve up a huge one to share.


Ages 4 to 5

When the kids are hungry and waiting for the main course, lay out a variety of colorful cut-up raw veggies — and a challenge. Shout out a theme, like faces, vehicles, or homes, and have the kids use peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and more to create edible art. Once the designs are done, admire or snap a photo, then chow down before the next challenge. (Bonus: Research shows that serving vegetables as a first course increases kids’ consumption of produce.)


Ages 6+

Encourage some performance art at the table. Have each family member select a different food item from their meal to serve as inspiration for a silly haiku. (Remember: It’s five, seven, then five syllables.) It’s a great way to slow everyone down as they focus attention on colors, aromas, and tastes. If you’re not into poetry, play a few rounds of Would You Rather — Food Edition. Take turns asking each person questions like “Would you rather eat frog legs or snails?” Or: “Would you rather eat hot dogs at every meal or never eat them again?” Laugh riots guaranteed!



Another way to make dinner an event? Dress up in your finest jewelry!