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CSP Spotlight: Family Style Eating

Children establish eating habits as early as two years old!  At Head Start/Early Head Start programs, we partner with families to build healthy eating habits early; one way to do this is to serve meals family-style. Eating family-style meals is a great way to introduce healthy foods, model healthy behaviors and provide opportunities for nutrition education.

What is Family Style Eating?

With family style eating, children are responsible for setting the table, helping to get snacks and meals ready, serving themselves at the table and cleaning up when they are finished eating. Children gain a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence as they realize that they can pour their own milk and scoop their own cereal. They become more independent when they are able to perform tasks on their own.

The Benefits of Family Style Eating

When children participate in family style eating, they learn:

  • How to take turns as they pass the food around the table
  • To share when they realize that everyone gets some of the food being served
  • Table manners, as they watch the teachers sitting properly, saying “please” and “thank you,” passing the food, etc.
  • Healthy eating habits when the teachers lead a discussion about the food they are eating
  • How to clean up after themselves

Family style eating also gives children the opportunity to practice important skills such as:

  • small motor skills when they scoop and pour
  • counting as they count the appropriate number of crackers, apples, etc.
  • one-to-one correspondence when they set the table 
  • conversation skills when everyone at the table talks about food, what they did during the day, etc.

Community Service Programs of West Alabama (CSP), Inc.’s Head Start/Early Head Start, and Child Care Partnership programs engage families and encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Safe and healthy children are ready to learn and explore their world. 

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