Gather ‘Round – It’s Dinner Time

Everyone knows the importance of family mealtime. Having dinner together gives you a chance to talk about your day and stay connected. It can also help families make healthier food choices and communicate better. It can be hard to find time in everyone’s busy schedules to all sit down together, but it is something that should be done as often as possible. Try to get each member of the family involved in dinnertime so that it is something you can all share at the end of a long day.

Even though younger children can be a handful when you are trying to get dinner on the table, they should be included in family mealtime. Don’t give them their dinner separately before everyone else eats; including them in the meal will make them feel like a big boy or girl. Eating with everyone else can also help young children improve their table manners. Don’t worry if they make a mess, but make sure to draw the line at playing with their food.

Make sure the whole family minds their dinner manners by doing things like sharing and passing food instead of reaching across the table. Make sure everyone says “please” and “thank you,” and that they ask to be excused before they leave the table, and encourage conversation by making sure everyone waits their turn to speak. You’d be surprised at how interesting the conversation can become by respecting each other and each person’s opinions.

Even before it’s time to eat, get your children involved in preparing the meal. Help younger kids add ingredients or pick out their favorite dessert. Kids that are a little older can set the table or even make an easy side dish for the whole family. Create dinner traditions by having a pasta night or a make-your-own pizza night. If your child has a culinary specialty, even if it happens to cereal, let them pitch in every once in a while. This will build their confidence and heighten their interest in dinnertime.

The meal isn’t over just because the food is gone, either. Everyone should take turns doing dishes each night. Maybe an older sibling can wash while mom or dad helps a younger one dry. Members of the family who are off dish duty can take charge of straightening up the kitchen or keeping the family entertained with a new joke or story they have heard. Have someone put on your favorite nighttime game show like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune on the TV or radio and keep track of who answers the most questions correctly.

Even if you can’t find the time in your schedule to have family dinners every night, you should try to make it a tradition at least once a week, even if it means that you have to eat out because you don’t have time to make dinner or have to eat breakfast together instead. The importance isn’t what or when you eat, but that you spend time together as a family.

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