Sophie Pickles

Early Years Child Development Specialist

As a qualified teacher, mum, parenting coach and all-round Early Years expert, Sophie has a wealth of practical, real life experience to share with parents.


Dr. Stephanie Ooi

General Practitioner

As a mum of two and a registered GP, Stephanie has seen more than her fair share of little ones! She has lots of practical tips and professional know-how on hand to help parents.


Laura Matthews


Laura is our nutrition whizz – bringing her expert advice and experience from working with chefs, schools and nurseries to the Kiddylicious expert panel.


Getting involved at mealtimes


As your kids get older, you can get them involved in meal preparation, whether that’s setting the table, getting out napkins or table seasoning. If we’re having pizza or pasta, I’ll get my son to pick the basil leaves off the plant as an activity to pass the time, while still contributing towards dinner. It’s increasing his familiarity with other foods, even if he doesn’t eat it at the table. He knows what it is.


Practical life skills are important to build, it’s something that’s talked a lot about in Montessori education. Being able to pour your own drink, being able to serve yourself. It’s not only important for becoming familiar with things but it’s also great for hand-eye coordination, building arm and shoulder strength, fine motor skills and more. All those things contribute towards children who are more capable readers, more capable writers and more physically able. Food is a great way to help children develop the skills they need for writing, as they need to be able to hold a pencil, it’s about shoulder and arm strength and core stability. Children need to be able to use their hands for lots and lots of different things, so doing food prep is so useful.

Allowing them to choose the meal can help as well. If they said: “can we have pizza for tea?” You might say” “well, tonight we’re having this but that’s a great idea. Let’s do it on Saturday.” That makes it fun for them because they can get involved in the decisions and preparation.

Distraction-free tables


Try to have calm mealtimes by avoiding having toys on the table as they can be too much of a distraction.


Of course, the table can get full of toys. Try to make clearing all the toys from the table before dinner part of the “meal prep” they can help with. It’s another way to get them involved.


If your child brings a toy to the table with them, you can try saying something like: “let’s put him over here and he can watch you have your tea.” That’s a nice way of not taking it away from them, but it’s not right there on the table to distract. Even having a fruit bowl in the middle of the table can be a distraction because they are not focused on what’s on their plate and are asking for alternatives.

Table manners


I get questions asking what age a child should be able to use cutlery. The spoon comes first, then the fork and then the knife, although it can be different for every child. They may not be able to use a fork independently until they reach the age of around two and a half. If you’re modelling how to do it, they will mimic it. It’s a very Western thing, isn’t it? There’s nothing wrong with using fingers, they can get the food into them much more quickly and they feel that they have more control.


I often get asked about table manners, when to introduce good dinner table behaviour. I think it’s a cultural thing and depends on your family. If we’re talking about things like, no elbows on the table, I would say look at the wider picture and think about what’s actually really important.


It’s also down to your interpretation of what manners are. Do you want them throwing food and dropping it on the floor? Probably not. Or saying: “that looks disgusting,” or throwing food on the table. Even when they ask for things, so a toddler might say: “I want water.” And you can say: “how do you ask for it nicely?” The type of manners such as elbows off the table or sitting up straight don’t really matter – though you don’t want them to be hanging off the chair or sitting backwards!


It’s a gradual process that we can’t expect them to learn overnight. Again, that’s where the role modelling is key.