Eating Together as a Family: More Than Just a Meal
Sitting around the table and enjoying a meal as a family may sometimes seem like it’s going out of style. According to the Family Dinner Project, fewer than 30 percent of families manage to eat together regularly. However, a family meal (and no, it doesn’t have to be dinner) has a significant positive impact on a child’s development. Gathering to eat a meal, or even a quick snack, creates an opportunity to connect that goes way beyond the meal itself. It offers a chance for families to share, to interact, and to support essential life skills.
Benefits of Family Meals
Try to ensure that family members interact with one another and engage in conversation – make a ‘phones/screens down’ rule. Go around the table and talk about your day – the best part and a challenge. This promotes positive social interactions, which will last a lifetime.
Give children an opportunity to build independence and encourage positive social interaction by allowing them to pass food around the table and serve themselves. You may be surprised by the joy this brings to children (even if you have to accept a bit more mess).
Promote healthy eating habits. Seeing the rest of their family enjoying a variety of foods, will likely increase children’s willingness to try and enjoy a wider variety of foods.
Sitting around a table to enjoy a meal with their loved ones allows children to use their language skills.
Consistency. Regular family meals create a routine and a sense of predictability for children.
Tips for Fun Family Meals
- Use colorful and child-friendly dishware and utensils to make the experience visually appealing. These can be found at a budget or consignment store.
- Child-sized chairs and a table are a good option to build independence. Consider setting your meals up picnic style with a blanket and clean floor. Younger children may enjoy inviting their teddies!
- Have a garbage can and sink/dishwasher nearby. This allows children to clean up after themselves easily and you can assign chores to suit their ages.
- Create an environment that allows each child’s voice to be heard. Don’t let your chatterbox drown out your introvert!
- Keep a routine! Maybe it’s three times a week, or special days like Taco Tuesday, or Breakfast for Dinner Thursday.
- Enjoy the experience. It is also about you having some fun and connecting with your family.
Remember that although the days are long, the years are short. Eating together with your family will force you to slow down and nurture the relationships you treasure. And what better way to spend an hour than building life-long skills and memories that will support your child throughout their lives: and that they can pass on to their own children.