The Importance Of Family Mealtime

By: Nicole Munoz

With today’s hectic schedules and busy lifestyles it is often hard to even find the time to share a meal together. But repeated research has proven that families who make a habit of sitting down together for at least one meal a day have happier, healthier children and stronger family relationships. Eating together as a family not only makes it easier for your child to eat healthy, family mealtimes can reduce the chance of substance abuse, premature sexual activity, and disruptive behavior like fighting.

The key to a quality family meal is to encourage conversation between every member of the family. For many families, dinner time is one of the few opportunities for everyone to talk together. Take advantage of this special and valuable family time by planning a few creative ways to get everyone involved.

Young children will love designing their own placemats while dinner is being prepared. The Guidecraft Paper Center can sit right on the table while your child draws, and can be put away at dinnertime. Ask her to draw a picture of the favorite part of her day and encourage other family members to make a placemat as well. Older children may want to add puzzles, story starters, trivia they learned, or other things they would like to share with the family. During dinner, allow everyone a chance to share their placemat.

Valuable family dinnertime can be as simple as everyone telling the best and worst part of their day, or you can plan different topics to discuss together each day. You may choose to talk about an interesting current event on one night, and discuss a movie or book you’ve recently enjoyed together the next. You can plan a family night activity together at dinnertime, or discuss options for your next family vacation. Dinnertime can also be a great time to plan dinners for the rest of the week with everyone’s input.

To get the most out of your family mealtime, plan quick and simple meals that allow you to spend more time eating than cooking. Gather everyone around the table and set down a few ground rules to avoid interruptions. There should be no television at dinnertime if you plan on conversation, so be sure to turn it off. Leaving the table to answer the telephone, or talking to a friend or colleague instead of family members, can also interfere with a family dinnertime, so be sure everyone understands that cell phones are put away and turn the answering machine on.

Vary your family mealtimes from time to time to keep it an exciting part of everyone’s day. If it’s not possible for everyone to get together for dinner, plan a family breakfast time instead. Pull out the nice dinnerware on occasion and dress up the table as if you have company because your family needs to feel special too. Adventuresome families can even plan a theme dinner and dress up for dinnertime!

Regardless of what you serve or what you talk about, keep your family mealtime a relaxing, pleasant, and enjoyable time. Dinnertime is a time to share and enjoy one another’s company.

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