Stacey Seybold Hiller, M.S., CCC-SLP is an industry expert in speech, language and feeding skills in children.
My husband and I started making our children sit at the table throughout the meal by the time they were 2 ½. Even if they weren’t eating, our children knew they had to sit at the table until most (if not all of us) were done. But as our family grew to 6, we started realizing that even though we were all at the table together, it wasn’t always this blissful, happy family time we were hoping to have. We needed help encouraging positive conversation, instead of feeling like the “manners police”.
Then, years ago, we read an idea in a parenting magazine that we adapted into a great way for us to have (mostly) positive family dinners. We bought an inexpensive “special” plate (ours is blue). That plate is passed through the family in order of age at each family meal. Whichever member of our family has the “blue plate” for that meal is in charge of saying the meal blessing. Then, as the meal begins, the rest of us take turns telling at least one thing that we appreciate about the blue plate user. It not only starts good conversation, but we have found is that it encourages praise between siblings (not always naturally occurring at other times), and it gives our children practice receiving praise gracefully. Then there is the obvious boost to the blue plate holder’s self-esteem. It amazed us how quickly our youngest, then 2 years old, caught on to this practice. It has made for many precious (however fleeting) family dinner moments.
Stacey Seybold Hiller has practiced pediatric speech pathology for more than 18 years. Both she and her husband felt they were ready for a career change, so they recently opened Dream Dinners in Indianapolis with a partner. Now she can further her passion for healthy family meals around the table at home!