Our parents are sometimes surprised at the lovely manners of the young children round our dinner tables. From the moment they join nursery, children join their friends round the table and are encouraged to try a bit of everything on their plate. Even very young babies will learn from each other and you can often see them eyeing each other with interest, putting the same food into their mouths with fingers and spoons.
Two year olds are well-known for putting their foot (and spoon!) down if they don’t want to try something, but seated alongside one another they will often be tempted to taste unfamiliar foods if they see other children doing so. Here, they are encouraged to use cutlery to eat and enjoy copying the quiet chat of the adults at the tables.
By the time they are three, our children are very familiar with the dinner routine. They sit in groups round small tables and talk about all sorts: the morning’s activities, the taste or appearance of the food, the games they’re planning to play outside…
What’s really inspiring is how they serve themselves from small dishes and use knives and forks to eat their food. They don’t overeat, but choose foods according to their appetite. Unfamiliar food is sometimes rejected, but the children will encourage each other to ‘try a bit’ and we’ve found that within a few weeks, most are happily eating altogether. Vegetables that are sometimes left uneaten at home taste much more enjoyable when accompanied by friends!