4 Ways To Reduce Mealtime Chaos For Large Families!

It’s the little things that add up to big things. Sometimes I don’t even think about posting these little things here, but I realize others might be struggling with the same issues. Even if you have found a solution, you might appreciate knowing you are not alone in your struggles!

Large Families bring interesting dynamics to the mealtime. It takes longer to get everyone seated, quieted down, served up, and cleaned up.

Here are some basic tips that we do to make mealtime a little smoother in our house.

1. Everyone has assigned seating at the table. If we did not assign seating there would be major chaos at every mealtime. All the children want to sit next to us, and while that is sweet it’s not possible! Right now Sean sits at the head of the table, I sit next to him on the right hand side, and Deborah (our youngest that sits at the table) is seated next to me. I always prefer to sit next to Sean so we can *try* to have some time to talk during dinner, and then the youngest child that is eating is always seated next to me, so I can help them.

We switch the older children’s seating around probably once a year. Right now our oldest has to pull a chair from the desks behind the table, as we don’t have enough chairs.

2. Organize your mealtime prayer! This is something I just started implanting recently and I love it! All of our children clamor loudly to pray at every meal, and it was just too much. Since we have 5 children old enough to pray, I gave them each a day of the week and they are in charge of all the prayers for that day. They say prayers at devotion time, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our oldest starts on Monday, and our youngest ends on Friday.

Sean and I cover the weekends (no, I did not assign us days during the weekend!). If there is a pressing need the children know that Sean might jump in and say the dinner prayer, but so far it is working out great!

3. Everyone waits to be served! When the little girls get older we might start passing food around the table, but right now I serve all the plates up. I either dish up at the stove or I bring the food to the table and dish it up there. It seemed like I barely started eating my own food before the first child I served was already done and wanting seconds!

The rule now is that you must wait to be served seconds until I am done eating my first serving. Otherwise I was constantly serving up food in-between each bite of food! We do allow our two boys to help themselves to seconds at times, but the little girls must wait for sure.

4. Clean the table off! This one still needs help. If I’m being honest, we use paper plates a lot. It’s one of my work at home mama splurges to help me survive. Sean set a rule where if you don’t clear off your plate, you don’t get snacks. We need to be more diligent about sticking with that rule every single day. 🙂

Those are just some tips that help us through the never ending mealtime! Do you have any other tips?

7 Comments on 4 Ways To Reduce Mealtime Chaos For Large Families

  1. This is very much similar to the way our family handles mealtime – I am the oldest of 7 children, ages 24 to 11. We’ve had assigned seating ever since I can remember and my mother used to always serve all the food from the stove or counter. Now that most of us are older, usually one of us girls will serve everyone. We occasionally put food dishes on the table but passing can get chaotic when everyone is trying to talk! We also have assigned prayer times – we 7 children cover breakfast and lunch in order (i.e. oldest is Monday morning, second oldest is Monday lunch, and so on), and my parents rotate on dinners. And of course everyone is responsible to take their dishes to the sink! One other thing that helps is that we try to keep the talking to one person at a time. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my father say “one at a time!” There can be some lively conversations around our table at mealtime but when people start talking over each other, it gets really crazy. So we try to be careful not to interrupt or speak when someone else is speaking.

  2. Thank you for this timely advice. We have 3 little ones and meal time has become very difficult since #3 came along and is no longer in a high chair. Our table only fits 4 people so we often struggle with how to sit together at the same time for meals. If anyone has any suggestions for this I would be grateful.

  3. We have 9 children, ages 15-3, the 3-yo being Autistic. We have children that are fully capable of serving themselves, little ones that need constant help, some who are transitioning, and Tim, our Autistic boy.

    We were having troubles getting everyone to the table so we changed from assigned seating to first-come, first one picks a seat. That solved that problem plus helped Tim not get stuck in a seating routine.

    We have the younger who need help assigned to an older, and that never changes, not even for church potlucks, picnics, etc. That takes a lot of burden off of Mama. 🙂 Tim sits close to both Daddy & I as he often will need help from us both.

    We implemented buffet-style serving. This keeps the food mess in the kitchen and eliminates those who are seated in the middle of the table from having to pass a dish, take a bite, pass a dish….

    As far as noise, and there is a lot!… we are still struggling with this but have found that when Daddy & I sit in the middle across from each other, versus on the one end, that seems to help quite a bit. Plus, that gives 4 spots next to us for the children to choose from.

    The children pray at breakfast & lunch. Boys on odd numbered days and girls on even. I pick who prays. Daddy &/or I cover dinners.

  4. We have come up with almost the exact rules for our mealtimes, Caroline! We just had our 8th baby, our oldest is 12. At times it feels we still have chaos, but seeing these rules written down, makes me feel much more organized than I realized we were! lol 🙂

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