Growing up as the youngest of six kids, I found it was hard to get word in edgewise! But my parents always made a point of going around the dinner table, asking each of us ‘how was your day?’.

It’s a good time to share your daily highlights, learn to try new foods and get kids, even picky eaters, involved – and have only one meal to serve! It can save time and effort, and everyone benefits[1].

1. Jobs for Kids!  Giving little hands a mealtime job can help the transition to mealtimes in a fun and routine way. Have them set the table, illustrate a menu on a chalkboard, fold napkins or help put food out. Make their participation fun and they will be primed to start eating.

2. Keeping it simple.  Cook a big chicken, lasagne or casserole – something you can make in advance so it’s less stressful for you. This meal is about getting into a social routine of eating together as a family. Let the kids serve themselves so they can pick out what they want. It’s okay if they don’t take much, they can always go back for more.

3. Any time!  It doesn’t have to be dinner. Have lunch together, or enjoy breakfast at the weekend when time is on your side. Make a personal goal of doing it once or more a week.

4. Conversation starters!  We always ask, “What was your favorite thing today?” But you can make it a “favorite anything game” – “what’s your favorite ice-cream?” or “favorite … you name it!“ –there are no wrong answers and everyone can join in[2]. You may find the eating takes care of itself.

5. Just one taste. The one-try rule[3] is confirmed to work. Kids put a tiny bit on their plate. They can smell it, lick or have a tiny, tiny taste. And if they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it. It’s about seeing that food as familiar. If they do try it, give them a ton of praise; it reinforces this food for the next time. Remember, it can take over 10 times for a child to like a new food.

Some of my favorite memories are chatting and joking with my family around a big table. It’s nurtured close family bonds and something we all still love to do!

Top Tip: If you want your kids to share stories of their day, lead by example. Talk about what you’ve seen and done, share your interests, and then ask them questions or have a fun nightly topic. If they aren’t talking yet, they are still learning language and behavior skills[4].

Recipe: Try Ollie’s favorite recipe, Marine Dream. It’s a salmon pasta for easy to eat food that we all love at Ollie HQ. You can turn it into a pasta bake by cutting the pasta cooking time by 2 minutes, putting in an oven dish, top with grated cheese (a mix of cheddar and Parmesan is delicious) and oven bake until crispy and golden on top. We all love and fight over the crispy bits!

Printable Coloring Sheet: Ollie and Me Cooking!
Click here to download free printable

There’s lots of research that backs up the rewards of eating together as a family[5]. We’d love to hear how you get on! What are your conversation starters? Any silly jokes? Did you have any funny moments?

Share your tips with our Ollie Club on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #ollieclub. Our favorite ideas will win a signed Ollie Storybook.

Making every meal an adventure.

Messy fun! Sheena x


[1] [The Importance of Eating Together]

[2] [How to have great dinner conversations with your kids]

[3] [New research offers hope for parents of picky eaters]

[4]  [Mealtime talk that supports literacy development]

[5]  [The Benefits of Eating Together For Children and Families]