At one time it was commonplace for families to gather around the dinner table every night. In nuclear families of the 1950s and ’60s, the kids would do homework after school, and when Dad came home from work, they would sit down and eat.
With all the distractions of today – sports events, after-school activities, both parents working, to name just a few – the family dinner table has taken a back seat.
According to the University of Washington publication The Whole U, dining together as a family has its benefits. Families who eat together tend to include a greater variety of foods with emphasis on healthy food.
In addition, The Family Dinner Project shows that meal conversations can be a “more potent vocabulary booster” than reading, and the shared stories can help children become more resilient to life’s challenges.
Children also do better in school when they have regular mealtimes with their family and have fewer behavioral problems when they eat meals together.
So how do you make it easier for the whole family to have a sit-down meal? The Whole U offers these tips:
- Try adding one more mealtime to the number you’re already doing.
- Remember that dinner isn’t the only meal of the day – breakfast and lunch count too.
- Include all family members in the planning. Build meals around favorite foods and assign each person the responsibility of preparing or serving one item at each meal.
- Use the meal preparation as quality family time. Consider making meals ahead of time so they’re ready to go on busy weeknights.
- Make a point of turning off electronic devices. No cellphone calls, texting or TV during mealtimes.
- Leftovers and sandwiches can be healthy too, so don’t hesitate to serve simple meals.
- Make mealtimes special by using cloth napkins, lighting candles or serving on special plates.
- Encourage conversation. Ask each person to discuss his or her day, share the high and low points of the day.