The Lonely Kitchen Island: Physical Obstacles to Family Meals

This post isn’t specifically about the spectrum of picky eating… but it is. One of the major goals of our STEPS+ approach is for families to enjoy eating together again— or perhaps for the first time. We wrote a whole chapter on rehabbing family mealtimes, and one often overlooked piece of the puzzle is the physical space where meals happen. Consider the kitchen island. Other than just being a place to throw keys and homework, the kitchen island in many houses and apartments has replaced the kitchen table. Granite countertops sell homes— humble tables don’t. Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, most Midwestern middle class kitchens I dined in did not have elaborate islands or counters with stools. I remember sitting around tables. As homes generally got bigger over the last 30 years, it seems the kitchen island became standard and the eat-in kitchen disappeared. On house-calls and play-dates over the years as a childhood feeding specialist and mom, I’ve watched the parent or childcare provider standing behind the island counter preparing food and serving children. By design, the island makes line-cook/wait-staff the easiest option— and there’s nothing wrong with this on occasion. But if it mostly or always happens, it robs children of the most important mealtime ingredient—a loving adult providing company and eating from the same foods (including at least one item the child generally enjoys). So, did form follow, or dictate function? Were parents already standing and serving meals and needed a more efficient way to do so, or did the changing design of modern homes assist the slide of communal family meals?  Moms  (both...

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