Tip #3: Enjoy screen-free meals

Make meals a time for your family to talk about the day without distraction from TV, smartphones, and other screens.

True Story: Sarai, mother to 6-year-old Maya and 20-month-old Andrew, found limiting screen time with an older and a younger child to be challenging. She wished her toddler, especially, had less screen time. Sarai said she made a few changes to address this concern, including doing more art with the kids, decreasing her own screen time, and turning off the TV when no one was watching. But the change that made the biggest difference was limiting screen time during meals. The family used to have the television on while they ate 4-6 times per week, but now they’re down to once per week. And that’s led to a whole bunch of other positive changes. 

Outcome: Sarai found that when the TV was on during meals, the children would be distracted and not eat very well. Her 6-year-old daughter would say, “I’m done” so she could focus on the program that had her attention. But now that the TV is off during most meals, both kids are less distracted and eat better. Her daughter now eats until she feels full, and there’s more family conversation at the table. 

Sarai says: “When the TV was on during meals there was chaos, noise, and distraction. While mealtime can still be a little hectic with two young kids, it’s nice to have more peace, quiet, and focus while we eat. Now during dinner we talk as a family. And after dinner, since the TV is already off, it usually stays that way and the kids play together instead. It’s a nice way to end the day.”

Did you know? Screen-free family meals encourage healthy eating,1,2 and children who spend less time with screens eat healthier.3,4,5

 

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1. Fitzpatrick, E., Edmunds, L.S., & Dennison, B.A. (2007). Positive effects of family dinner are undone by television viewing. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 107(4), 666-671.
2. Woodruff, S.J., Hanning, R.M., McGoldrick, K., & Brown, K.S. (2010). Healthy eating index-C is positively associated with family dinner frequency among students in grades 6-8 from Southern Ontario, Canada. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 64(5), 454-460.
3. Harrison, K., Liechty, J.M., & The STRONG Kids Program (2011). US preschoolers’ media exposure and dietary habits: The primacy of television and time limits of parental mediation. Journal of Children and Media, 6(1), 18-36.
4. Tavaras, E.M., Sandora, T.J., Shih, M.C., Ross-Degnan, D., Goldmann, D.A., & Gillman, M.W. (2006). The association of television and video viewing with fast food intake by preschool-age children. Obesity, 14(11), 2034–2041.
5. Weicha, J.L., Peterson, K.E., Ludwig, D.S., Kim, J., Sobol, A., & Gortmaker, S.L. (2006). When children eat what they watch: Impact of television viewing on dietary intake in youth. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 160(4), 436-442.