How to Get the Family to the Dinner Table
The Importance of family mealtimes and how busy families can make the time.
There are so many articles out about how families who spend quality time around the table talking and interacting have more well-adjusted children. What do they mean by well-adjusted? According to an article in Time.com: Healthier, less likely to do drugs, have sex, and learn to use a fork. According to the article, “A meal is about civilizing children. It’s about teaching them to be a member of their culture.”
I totally want civilized children!
Our family has been making a special effort to have more meals together every week to make sure we connect and more importantly, have fun. Trust me, I know it’s hard for busy families to schedule quality time together but you have 21 chances a week to sit down to eat and interact as a family. Surely, you can find at least 4 or 5 times to do it together.
Here are some tips on how to make it happen in your house.
1. Make Family Dinnertime Fun.
You'll get your family to show up at the dinner table more if they enjoy it. Just because you are all sitting around a table together, it doesn’t mean you are connecting. You have to engage, have fun and get the family to look forward to the time together. Silly dinner menus, great conversations, playing "restaurant", and games are all ways to inject some fun. Read my post How to Bring More Fun to the Dinner Table for more ideas.
2. It's Not About the Food. Sure we all love to eat a great meal but as I saw in an article 5 Ways to Improve Family Mealtime, don't sweat or stress about the meal itself. Make your life easier on some nights and eat off of paper plates, order in food, or eat breakfast food at dinner if it's easier to make. The kids think it is fun and no one will think any less of Mom if she would rather spend 20 precious minutes at night reading with kids than washing dishes. Just get everyone around the table. Here's a recipe for one of my favorite super-easy dinners that the kids like too.
3. Family Meals Aren’ Just for Dinner Anymore.
Let’s face it, no matter how hard you try, life interferes with dinnertime. Dad works late, kids have practice, Mom’s going out to a networking meeting or if she's lucky a Girls Night Out event. So, if you know you have a crazy week of evening activities ahead look at your planner and pencil in mealtimes at any time of the day. Sunday brunch, Saturday lunch, Wednesday breakfast. Just schedule 4-5 times a week where everyone will be sitting together and sharing. Mark it on the central family calendar so everyone knows they are expected to be present at those times.
4. Get the Kids to Pitch In. Once your kids reach a certain age, they can certainly help with the family dinner. Here's a good article on 3 Strategies to Get Kids to Pitch In which gives some good ideas on what kids can do at which age and how to help them help you. Kids can chip in by setting or clearing the table. Get them involved in cooking. Make them in charge of the dinner table game or conversation for the meal. By giving them a job, they'll see how important the family meal is and hopefully make life a little easier for Mom and Dad.
What are your tips for getting the family together at mealtimes? What are your "go-to" easy recipes? Do you use a family meal planning software or service? Which is your favorite? How do you get the kids to help out? We'd love to hear from you so please share your ideas in the comments below.