SOURCE: Health Link BC (2017) The Benefits of Eating Together for Children and Families
There is a comfort to having meals together with your family after a long and tiring day.. However, as our time becomes more limited with children having sport practice or parents doing overtime at work, it’s becoming more difficult to gather everybody at the dinner table. A lot of the time, people tend to eat when it best suits them – which is okay from time to time! But research shows that families who eat together regularly (that’s more than three times a week), have shown to have more positive outcomes when it comes to health, family relationships and social development.
The family dinner table, after all, is where children learn manners, converse and interact with grownups, share what’s happening in their lives and experience new foods. The preparation of food and the table setting process are all part of the roles in a family and shape thoughts and feelings around food and family.
Schedule The Time
Eating together can happen at breakfast, lunch or dinner – choose the meal that gives you the most time to talk and connect! If you don’t usually eat together, start by scheduling one meal per week and increase the number as you are able.
Helping Out with the Planning and Preparation
Eating together is more likely to happen when everyone helps! Involving everybody in the planning, shopping and preparing of meals also build important life skills and is a great way to connect with each other and have fun! It also teaches children about kitchen and food safety as we teach them about the importance of washing hands before and after preparing food, wash fruit and vegetables before eating and not to mix ready-to-eat food with those that still need to be cooked!
Ensure that you use a combination of fresh ingredients and ready-made food to make fast, easy meals. However, also remember that the meals don’t need to be perfect, it’s the time spent that matters!
Make Mealtimes about Being Together
Eating together provides a time to be connected. This helps children feel loved, safe and secure. Focus on enjoying each other’s company, not on what or how much each child is eating. Ensure that mealtime conversations are positive and encourage children to talk about their day. This helps to develop more communication between family members!
A good tip for our families is to turn off distractions like the TV, computer, tablets and phones during mealtimes! This also includes toys and books as well.
Model Positive Eating Behaviour
You are an important role model for good table manners, trying new food and enjoying mealtimes! Children are more likely to eat food their parents and family enjoy eating.
Make offering new food a part of your regular mealtime routine. Children often need to see, smell and touch food many times before trying it, so offer new food with familiar food and include those that they’ve refused in the past. Not everyone likes the same food, and that’s okay!
We have so much impact into the lives of our children, that’s why it’s necessary to keep pockets of time during the day to spend with them – and what better time than during a good meal!