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A family of 4 enjoying dinner together at the table.

Family Dinners Matter: Why Eating Together is Important and How to Make it Enjoyable

What comes to mind when you think of family meals? On holidays and other special days, your family may sit down together at the table, sometimes with guests. In these situations, families cook, eat a healthy meal, use good manners, talk, and interact with each other. Most of us, including those working in child care in Potomac, MD, want to know why this doesn’t happen more often.

Family sit down dinners don’t happen in many homes because of things like long work or commute hours, homework, or other after school activities. There are times when life gets in the way, and we eat fast food instead of a healthy family meal. The worst part of these quick meals is that they are usually spent in front of some kind of screen, whether it’s a phone, computer, or TV screen.

Unfortunately, busy lives and schedules can make it hard for families to spend important time together. However, family meals should be seriously considered because they benefit everyone.

Why Is It Important to Enjoy Meals Together?

According to research, a minimum of four family dinners each week appear to benefit a child’s growth. A higher likelihood of graduating from high school and a decreased risk of obesity, substance misuse, and eating problems have been associated with family dinners.

How Eating Together Brings People Together

Eating with family and friends strengthens bonds. It doesn’t matter how often you see them; sharing a meal with them is a great way to get to know each other better. Sharing food with your family can also be a great way to check in on them, even if you have a busy schedule.

Happy family having fun during lunch at dining table. Little girl is feeding her father.

Benefits of Family Meals

Family life can be busy, and making and eating meals together takes time. But if you can, making time for regular family meals is worth the effort. Family meals, whether they’re every night for dinner or a special Sunday lunch, are great times to catch up, connect, and talk. This can be very important for adults and older kids who are always on the go. Also, letting your child watch you eat can teach them a lot about food, eating, and family customs. Little kids can learn to eat healthy foods by eating with their family. It might help picky eaters to try new things.

What Can You Do to Make Mealtime Pleasant?

Family meals are also an excellent time to show your kids how to behave when you all get together. For younger kids, this involves using spoons, plates, and chopsticks. Sometimes, you must wait your turn to talk and listen while others share their news.

Here are a few things your family can do to help make mealtimes more enjoyable.

Regular Eating Times

Establish regular mealtimes with each other. When you include these times in your weekly plan, you all have a higher chance of attending. Eating dinner at a table with the TV and phones off will add to the specialness of this occasion.

Don’t Rush the Meal

If you set aside 20 to 30 minutes for family meals, you will give your kids plenty of time to eat. They will be able to experiment with different cuisines and form wholesome eating routines. This will allow you to spend time with your family, unwind, and converse.

It’s acceptable if your toddler occasionally gets up from their seat or moves from the table if they have trouble staying put for more than twenty minutes. However, make sure your young child only eats when seated at the table. Eating while running about or playing increases the risk of choking in young children.

Involve the Kids

Getting your kids involved in planning and making family meals increases their likelihood of eating them. It can also help you deal with picky eaters and get kids to try new foods. Even young children can help make meals for the family. They can wash fruits and veggies or toss salads. They can also help set the table.

Teenagers and older kids might enjoy trying new recipes and making meals for the family, say once a week or every two weeks. This way, everyone helps make meals, and your child can learn how to cook from you.

Family enjoying breakfast together at the table.

Talk to Each Other

Having meals with your family is a great way to see what everyone is up to. But kids can sometimes have trouble putting their days into words. This might be your child. It might help to ask them questions that require more than a yes or no answer. For instance, ask them to tell you about one thing that happened at their daycare in Potomac, MD, or what their favorite part of the day was.

It could also be fun to have each person share something good and bad about their day. Your kid won’t feel like they’re being pushed this way. But if your kid doesn’t want to talk, don’t force them or bring up sensitive topics. Being with your family and hearing others talk is good for your child. People are supposed to enjoy and speak to each other during meals.

Keep Things Simple

Keep the conversation during meals neutral, and don’t talk about how much or what is being eaten. This can help some kids feel less pressure to eat, and it can also help people relax and enjoy their meals more. Never point out how much or how little a child is eating.

Also, do not use food as a reward or punishment. You shouldn’t say things like eating your vegetables means you can have a treat after dinner. Because it sounds like eating vegetables or other healthy foods is a chore while treats are a reward, this could make your child want treats more than healthy foods. Focus on good habits instead of effort when praising your child at the table.

Final Thoughts

No matter when you get home from picking up your kid at a Potomac child care center, eating together as a family is not only possible but can also be enjoyable. Set aside a few days a week to eat together. Over time, plan even more meals that the whole family can enjoy. A lot of us only think about dinner, but they can also include family breakfasts during the week or lunches on the weekends.

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