Friends at the Dinner Table
Have your children reached the age of inviting friends to stay for supper? Maybe your child has been invited to supper at a friend’s home? This is a wonderful learning opportunity for your children and their friends. We hear plenty about the negative influence of peer pressure, but some peer influence can be healthy and positive. Children listen to their friends, especially when it comes to what they like and don’t like; including food choices.
What happens if?
- Your child is a picky eater or resistant to new foods: Having a friend over to eat can be a wonderful experience if your child’s friend is a more adventurous eater. If you know your child’s friend is willing to eat all kinds of things, you’re likely to hear, “you should try this” or “I love these”. Let their conversation flow naturally and resist the urge to encourage your child to listen to his/her friend.
- Your child is apt to try new things: Having a friend over may increase the level of bravery in your child and/or friends. Try introducing a new food or dish, while making it fun. Give them scorecards to offer their feedback in the areas of presentation, texture, taste, spice, etc.
- Your child has a food allergy: Gone are the days of being shy about food allergies or specific cuisine needs. Many families are very good at cooking without dairy, gluten, or peanuts (just to name a few). Too often more attention is paid to what can’t be eaten, rather than all the wonderful foods that can be enjoyed. There is no reason why friends can’t be invited to a meal cooked with extra love and care. You’d be surprised how much kids know about their friends’ allergies and can share an amazing amount of information with the adults in their lives.
- Your family cooks foods from another culture: Whether your family cooks ethnic foods from your own heritage or loves trying lots of ethnic dishes, any invited guest is in for a treat at your home. Children are often excited to share some of their family favorites with friends. You may want to consider a classroom presentation where you can provide more information and even a taste of some special foods.
Do you allow friends over for meals? Why or why not? What age do you think is a good age to introduce your child to this meal experience? What are some joys and/or challenges you’ve found by having friends at the supper table?