Family Style Meal Service

Family Style Meal Service Currently, traditional family style meal service is the recommended approach to serving meals in preschool settings. Using this approach, all foods on the menu are served at the same time in serving bowls that are passed around the table, and children self-serve the amounts they desire. There are a number of potential advantages to traditional family-style meal service including allowing children the opportunity to self-regulate consumption (match food selection with hunger level).

This approach to mealtime creates a number of healthy habits that are important to the growth and development of children at any age. Children tend to eat more healthy foods if they see their friends try it. They learn skills such as taking turns, sharing, and teamwork. Family style dining opens up opportunities for conversation, which increases vocabulary, promotes proper use of language and interaction with friends. There are even more benefits that support healthy growth. Children learn:

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 portion sizes for each food group

 to recognize when they are hungry or satisfied

 how to identify healthy foods and where they come from

 to improve fine motor skills Children are not the only ones who benefit. Providers get a better grasp of food costs, get help with mealtime service and, with less food being wasted, they save money.


Tips for Family Style Dining  Start with the right equipment. When purchasing serving dishes,

utensils and other place settings, keep in mind that they need to be kid-friendly and sized for little hands to maneuver

 Remember each child’s skill level when choosing your menu. Finger foods and foods that are easy to navigate with a child-size fork or spoon are easiest to self-serve for younger children.

 Have multiple sets of utensils and serving spoons in case someone drops one on the floor.

 Give each child a task to help set the table. One child can set the plates, one can place the cups and so on. Children have a sense of pride and belonging when they have a contributing role.