How To Prep Baby for Family Mealtime

Tips to get your baby or toddler ready to join the family at mealtime rather than always eating alone. Get tips to help with family meals.

Toddler in highchair

Tips to get your baby or toddler ready to join the family at mealtime rather than always eating alone. Get tips to help incorporate your kiddo into meals.

For our family, family dinner is of very high importance. There are some who discount the value of family dinner time, whether consciously by deciding it isn’t important or subconsciously by letting busy schedules take over and push family dinner time out of the picture.

I believe family dinner time is a great opportunity for the family to sit and discuss the activities of the day. We all sit at the table with no distractions like the television on.

We discuss the events of the day. We ask our children what they learned. We also like to ask what nice service they did that day (an idea we read from an article and loved).

This, of course, is all easier done with older kids than with babies and young toddlers.

As in anything, it is best to “start as you mean to go on” and train rather than pull from the place you shouldn’t be and retrain.

Of course, you can pull and retrain, and of course it is worth it to do so, but if you have the chance, starting off right is far easier.

How To Get Baby Ready for Family Mealtime

On Becoming Babywise Book Two has some ideas for helping parents prepare for family dinner success. It starts on page 42 and ends on page 43.

0-6 Months Old

When baby is awake, have baby be in the room with the family during dinner time.

For us, our young babies were usually finishing up the last nap of the day while we were eating dinner. But if they were awake, they were with us at dinner.

6-12 Months Old

Many babies will be awake during dinner time sometime in this six month span. Your baby will likely eat dinner just before or just after the rest of the family eats dinner.

If baby is awake at dinner time, you can have baby sit in her highchair and eat finger foods while the family eats. This is what we do as soon as baby is awake during family dinner time.

How To Get Toddler Ready for Family Mealtime

Here are some tips for your young toddler.

12 Months and Older

Shortly after 12 months old, your baby will likely be eating dinner the same time as the family and eating the same thing family is for the most part.

If you are still feeding pureed food, you might start by mom or dad feeding baby the purees and then giving baby finger foods and safe food from the family dinner.

I highly encourage you to share your meal (anything safe) with your baby. This greatly increases the likelihood of your baby growing to like to eat what is typically on your menu.

On Becoming Babywise Book Two suggests spending your efforts on table manners at breakfast and lunch and not at dinner. Yes, you correct when needed at dinner, but you don’t start new rules or spend your full effort on training at dinner.

You want family dinner to be enjoyable and beneficial. If your child is disrupting those goals, then you address it, but otherwise wait until breakfast and lunch to work on any issues that arise.

>>>Read: 10 Smart Mealtime Rules for Children


Starting out life by focusing on the importance of family meals not only sets the stage for your child to love and expect family dinner time, but it also sets the stage for you to find value in and preserve this great family tradition.

You might have to be creative. You might have a spouse who is not home at a reasonable time for family dinner. If it is a priority for you, you can think of a way to get the benefits from family dinner in (having family ‘dessert’ or ‘breakfast’ instead).

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6 thoughts on “How To Prep Baby for Family Mealtime”

  1. I have a 2.5 son ( a week or so younger than your youngest) and we've been having a big issue at dinner time for months now. Ever since we removed the booster seat, he gets out of his chair over and over again while we're eating dinner. Dinner is not his big meal of the day so he just takes a few bites and then "he's done" and gets down. We have tried to make him sit with us but it only ends up ruining dinner time so my husband and I just let him get down and go play so we can actually have some time to eat and talk. But now he wants to either sit on our laps or play with us but we're still in the middle of eating.I am 5 months pregnant and would love to resolve this issue before the baby comes and our routine changes drastically. Any suggestions on how to get him to sit and stay even though he won't eat? He's very strong willed and sometimes we just have to "pick our battles" and I think we've let this go on long enough and really have to set rules back in place so we can have a nice dinner together every night as a family. I've been following babywise since he was born but ever since the age of 2, I feel like I can't control him even though I have all the tools and knowledge on how to do so. Help!!

  2. Hi Michele, I would say sitting at the table without a booster is a freedom he isn't ready for. A few days ago, we tried letting McKenna sit at the table without her booster, and she started getting down constantly. After two days, we put the booster back on. We first explained to her that if she couldn't stay on the chair then she would sit in her booster again, and she kept getting down. I think when you introduce a freedom, you want to give it a few days and work on obedience. But at some point, you realize the child isn't ready for the freedom and you go back. After a few weeks or more you can visit the freedom again.

  3. We put him in a toddler bed too soon and after 2 months, we realized he wasn't ready for the freedom yet and back in the crib he went for a few more months. Then we tried the bed again and it was night and day, he hasn't gotten out once 🙂 But do you think it's ok to put back the booster after 6 + months of not having it? He's in daycare 3 days a week and he sits just fine at lunch there. It's dinner that is tough cause I make what we the family is eating even though I know he might not be a fan of it.

  4. If he is sitting well at daycare, then his behavior at home is something you are allowing. So I would create a concrete list of expectations between you and your husband. Then have some clear consequences lined out between you and your husband. Then talk through the rules with your son. Give him one warning if/when he breaks rules. Then follow through with the consequence. If the situation is that he does fine according to daycare's standards (but those aren't your standards), then I think adding the booster back is fine now.

  5. This has been super helpful! I am breaking out the booster this weekend and pulling him back into the funnel, thank you so much, don't know what I would do w/o your blog!


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