"Family style dining encourages learning not only at the table but away from mealtime as well. Children learn independence, social skills, and other important habits that will last with them throughout adulthood."- National CACFP association
Here are some tips from CACFP for family style dining.
Start with the right equipment: purchase kid friendly serving dishes, utensils and other place settings that are easy for children to maneuver.
Remember each child's skill level: Choose a menu that is easy for children to self serve. Finger foods and foods cut into child appropriate sizes is key.
Have multiple sets of utensils, having back up makes it easy.
Give each child a task: Setting the table can be a group activity with each child taking a special role. Cups, plates, napkins can all be passed out by different children.
Offer a variety of foods: Trying new foods, children are more likely to try new foods if they serve themselves.
Provide a trash can: children can learn to dispose napkins and uneaten food. Provide a tub for them to place their dirty dishes.
Keep cleaning products near by: spills happen. Be patient and use opportunity as a learning lesson on how to clean up.
Eat with your children: This is one of the most important tips. Children learn form good role models. It also creates a positive meal time environment.