During the meal verbal skills can be increased with instructions from the parents regarding a game or family tradition that is done during the meal. For example, the parent might say we are going to each tell a story and go around the table with each person sharing a story about his/her day. The adults should also participate since this will provide a model of what the child should do. The other children in the family should be encouraged with praise to ask relevant questions, praise or actively listen by repeating parts of the story that is told. Finally, mealtime should have a definite end criteria for the child and this should be set up verbally prior to the mealtime. For example if the parent wants the children to stay for a certain amount of time or until they finish desert this should be expressed prior to the meal.
Also, prior to the meal the parent should explain the criteria for reinforcement. For example, the parent might say if you sit nicely at the table, tell a story and eat your food then you can have desert or computer time. With very small children that eat quickly a small toy or objects to entertain them might be helpful in helping them to control there behavior and stay seated at the table. Mealtime is becoming less common in this country but it is important to try to do this at least during one meal a day if possible in order to develop and maintain your children's social skills. In the long term the time parents devote to social skills training during will pay off with wonderful conversations with their children throughout their lives!