Eating Together As A Family
Regular family mealtimes can be tricky to fit into a busy family schedule that includes everything from sports practice and weekly classes to children’s play dates and all kinds of other personal and work commitments.
Nevertheless, regardless of how difficult it might be, it is important to prioritise meals together wherever possible, because often the only opportunity a busy family has to get together and catch up during the day is over a meal at the dinner table.
Families Who Eat Together Regularly Share A Stronger Connection
These days children learn about their environment and the world around them from a variety of different sources, free from parental filters, particularly older children who are absorbing a great deal of information through their use of modern technology. The dinner table provides the perfect backdrop for families to connect with one another. It is a place where children can learn important information about family culture and values.
The ritual of a family meal provides a number of benefits to all members of a family, children and adults alike. It may be a struggle at times, but hopefully the thoughts and tips below will inspire you to get everyone together at the table a little more often:
Set An Achievable Goal
It is often impossible to commit to family meals on a daily basis, so simply look at your schedule and set yourself an achievable goal. You may find that the only realistic time to get everybody together is over the weekend, but regardless of how many days per week you can all get together, making the commitment to enjoy regular quality time, sharing meals and catching up with everyone’s news is what’s important.
Keep in mind that it need not be an evening meal. Breakfast or lunch together would be equally beneficial.
Family Mealtimes Boost Your Childs Vocabulary
Various different studies over the years have drawn clear links between family mealtimes and performance at school. Sitting round the table as a family creates an opportunity for children to converse with adults and listen to the different ways that adults use words to express themselves vocally. It seems logical to suggest that family meals can give your child’s vocabulary a significant boost, which in turn has a positive impact on their reading, writing and general communication skills.
Important Life Skills
Table conversation, healthy eating habits, polite table manners and the art of negotiating spaghetti bolognaise without wearing it are just a few examples of the important life skills that children learn at the dinner table!
Storytelling Can Create A Sense Of Belonging
Telling stories about the past can be great fun for the whole family and helps children to establish their identity and sense of belonging. Starting points could include:
- Talking to your children about how their names were chosen
- Discussing the ways that technology has changed since your own childhood
- Telling your children the story of how their parents or grandparents first met
- Describing important life lessons and experiences to your children
- Telling stories about your ancestors and discussing your family tree
Children tend to have favourite ‘stories’ that they never tire of hearing and what better place than the dinner table to breathe life into favourite tales, reminisce about family legends and keep those wonderful family traditions alive…
Making It Fun
When you are pressed for time, aim for straightforward meals that can be prepared and eaten together in under an hour, given age appropriate tasks, keeping in mind that most children will enjoy rolling their sleeves up and getting involved in a little teamwork, even if it is just a case of helping to lay the table.
On the occasions when you are in a position to enjoy more extended meals there are plenty of opportunities to inject fun into your mealtimes.
Here are some ideas:
Exploring new foods – introduce your child to new foods at the dinner table and encourage them to be adventurous. Allowing them to choose unknown fruits and vegetables in the supermarket can be a great way to increase their willingness to try new things.
Play restaurant – get your child involved in the planning of your meal and ask them to create a menu. Children of all ages will have a great deal of fun role-playing around the dinner table!
Guessing the ingredients – encourage children to think about foods and the way they are prepared by asking them to guess the different ingredients that have gone into a particular meal. Discover whose taste buds are the most sophisticated and make your mealtimes more fun!
A Hands On Experience – having a choice of dips on the table, letting children ‘construct’ their own burgers or fajitas, or sharing fondants and grills at the table are just a few examples of the ways you can make your family mealtimes more memorable, fun and meaningful, creating a hugely positive and engaging experience for the whole family.