We are busy. Work, children’s activities, social engagements, civic involvement, and family responsibilities tug at our time each and every day. Despite this busy-ness, take time each day to eat as a family to reap quality time and lasting benefits for your family.
Why does this matter?
A 2017 report for the Food Marketing Institute Foundation by The Hartman Group the desires, barriers, and directions for shared meals at home are identified and explored.
- 88% of U.S. adults say they eat healthier at home than when they eat out
- 74% of parents specifically want their food stores to assist them with family meals
- Differing schedules are the lead obstacle to dinner at home in households with and without children
- Serving meals that children will enjoy and ensuring that everyone is home at dinnertime are the top steps being taken to eat with kids more often
- Household living arrangements today in the U.S. represent a new family diversity
How do our children benefit from family meals?
Children learn speech and language skills through observation and practice at the family table. They learn to use “please” and “thank you.” They will learn turn taking skills as they wait their turn for a dish to be passed or served. Children will learn conversation skills of asking and answering questions appropriately.
Children learn nutrition at the family table. If they see family members chowing down on a bag of microwave popcorn in front of the tv and calling that dinner, then they will think that is an okay meal for themselves. By sitting together and breaking bread, a child will learn to eat a variety of foods and to enjoy the meal.
Children learn social skills at the dinner table. They learn to keep elbows off the table and to focus their attention on the speaker. Be sure to turn off your technology at the dinner table so your attention is on your family and you can fully engage with them.
Need conversation ideas?
Sometimes gathering around the table results in forced and predictable questions like – How was your day? How was school? and What did you learn? These questions often result in flat and predictable answers like “Good” or “Okay.”
Use these conversation starters, great for children of any age and definitely more likely to elicit a “fine” to the standard, “How was school?”
If dinner is a super busy time of day, then sit down for breakfasts in the morning or lunches on the weekend. The meal does not have to be fancy and could easily be take-out or a frozen pizza. What does matter is the regular and focused family time.