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5 Ways to Make Family Mealtimes Less Chaotic

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If your kids are anything like mine, family mealtime is chaotic! Here are some ideas to help reduce the time spent in the kitchen and the chaos at the table.


1. Have a Set Family Mealtime and Stick to It

Kids need predictability. Even if they aren’t able to read a clock yet, it’s best to have mealtimes at the same time every day as much as possible.

Our twins eat breakfast at 6:20 am and our eldest eats at 8:10 am since he likes to sleep in. Lunch is always at 11 am, even on weekends, and dinner is always at 5 pm.

The younger two can’t tell time but they know the routine and where the hands on the clock are at those times so if I point at the clock they get it.


2. Meal Plan

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I meal plan for dinner a week in advance. This at least makes cooking dinner less hectic. My meal plans consist of most meals they’ll like, along with some new recipes sprinkled in.

I’ve found that meal planning not only helps reduce the nightly question of “what’s for dinner?!” but also gives them a range of familiar meals instead of whatever is quickest. This also helps us only buy the food that we need which reduces money spent on food and food waste.

meal planning with plan to eat showing the plan to eat logo and a week i meal planned
My blog post about Meal Planning with Plan to Eat

3. Mix up Where you Eat

I realize I just said that kids need predictability BUT sometimes it helps to throw them off their game a bit if things aren’t going well. This is how our dinner table usually looks, minus my husband and me. This is a meal they actually like which is why it’s going so well.

my three kids sitting around the table eating during mealtime

Picnic in the House

We have a splat mat we used to put under our eldest’s chair when we’d eat at someone’s house that I use as a picnic blanket in the house. I’ve started having Sunday breakfast in the basement with the twins while my husband and eldest sleep in. I’ve learned to get things ready the night before so we can get downstairs as soon as possible before they get loud. I was afraid that they would wander around since they weren’t in high chairs but they’ve done amazingly well the past few weekends I’ve tried this.

I bring down easy-to-eat and not very messy items for them, though I do still bring down their bibs as well. Lately, they’ve each been having a pouch of mini muffins, a yogurt pouch, and an applesauce pouch. I figure one meal a week full of pouches is ok – ha! They eat in less than 15 minutes, without any fighting, and are ready to play. It’s amazing.

Bumkins Baby Splat Mat for Under High Chair, Babies Toddlers Eating Mess Mat, Waterproof Reusable Cloth for Arts and Crafts, Playtime Mat for Kids, Floors or Tables, Fabric 42inx42in, Gray Chevron
Bumkins Baby Splat Mat for Under High Chair, Babies Toddlers Eating Mess Mat, Waterproof Reusable Cloth for Arts and Crafts, Playtime Mat for Kids, Floors or Tables, Fabric 42inx42in, Gray Chevron
by Bumkins
  • MESS MAT – Our splat mats have you covered; they're made to protect floors and tables from mealtime spills and playtime messes; place under high chairs and great play mats for art and craft projects – on top of or under tables
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Bumkins Sleeved Bib for Girl or Boy, Baby and Toddler for 6-24 Mos, Essential Must Have for Eating, Feeding, Baby Led Weaning Supplies, Long Sleeve Mess Saving Food Catcher, Fabric, Dinosaur Gray
Bumkins Sleeved Bib for Girl or Boy, Baby and Toddler for 6-24 Mos, Essential Must Have for Eating, Feeding, Baby Led Weaning Supplies, Long Sleeve Mess Saving Food Catcher, Fabric, Dinosaur Gray
by Bumkins
  • ESSENTIAL BABY BIB FOR BOYS AND GIRLS – For babies and toddlers 6-24 months; the crumb catcher / catch-all pocket helps catch spills; making these great baby bibs for eating; long sleeve bib has back tie closure; adjust sleeve length with elasticized cuffs; approximately 14in across the chest, 13in from neck down and 32in from cuff to cuff
  • SAVING YOU FROM THE MESS – Perfect for self-feeding, the sleeved bib offers generous coverage to help you save an outfit; made from Bumkins’ original waterproof fabric – 100-percent polyester embedded with TPU; machine washable for easy cleaning
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my twins looking happy having a picnic downstairs for breakfast on Sunday mornings

Eat on the Go

Even when we have nowhere to go, sometimes we eat on the go.

Last week I packed up bento boxes for each of them and we headed out in the van. We drove to see construction sites, barns, farm animals, etc. The kids were all quite quiet and ate really well. They were distracted enough to not bug each other but not so much that they didn’t eat.

EasyLunchboxes® - Bento Lunch Boxes - Reusable 3-Compartment Food Containers for School, Work, and Travel, Set of 4 (Brights)
EasyLunchboxes® - Bento Lunch Boxes - Reusable 3-Compartment Food Containers for School, Work, and Travel, Set of 4 (Brights)
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4. Use Outside Activity as Entertainment

Our almost 3-year-old twins are in high chairs so it’s easy, physically, to move them to another room. If I get lucky enough that something interesting is going on outside during lunchtime I’m always wheeling them over to the front window to check it out. I also have a table my eldest can sit at and look out the front window to see the action. Even if nothing new and exciting is happening outside, they all enjoy looking outside at the birds and chipmunks at the bird feeder or bunnies hopping around the yard.

Some things my kids are entertained by watching while eating:

  • Street Sweepers
  • Garbage Trucks
  • The neighbors mowing their lawns
  • Snowplows
  • Snow or rain
  • Birds and chipmunks at the bird feeder
  • Birds flying around or sitting in trees
  • Bunnies hopping around

5. Face away from each other

Another thing we try from time to time is to face them away from each other. This way they can’t see each other making faces or how quickly or slowly the others eat. This works sometimes, granted, often they will find a way to crane their necks around to see each other or use noises to bug each other.

We have a rather large main floor so we are also able to move them away from each other enough that they can’t see each other even if they tried.


6. (BONUS) Have Kids Help Make Meals

We’ve found that having our kids involved with making meals has helped them be more likely to eat them. Though this does often get messy, it often is worth the mess. They can be part of everything from meal planning to the actual preparation of the meals.

Of course, keep safety in mind and don’t have kids near hot stoves or ovens. Make sure you set ground rules before getting started in terms of what they can’t touch and other safety rules.


Share your ideas of how to curb mealtime chaos below in the comments!


5 ways to make meal times less chaotic with kids text with image of my children eating.

Founder, Professional Blogger at The Way it Really Is, LLC | [email protected] | Website

As a mom of identical twins and a son two years older, I have gained invaluable experience in the realm, and chaos, of parenting. With a Master's Degree and Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent years as a school psychologist, helping children navigate through their educational and emotional challenges. Now as a stay at home mom and professional blogger, I combine my areas of expertise to help you in your parenting journey.

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