Statistics show many benefits from eating together as a family: better choices, better health, better relationships. But with our family’s busy schedule and lack of meal ideas, I sometimes find it hard to enjoy mealtime. Here are some things we’ve tried that have helped make it a fun experience for everybody!
Check Your Schedule and Make Time to Eat Together
Some weeks it seems like we’re hardly ever home for the evening meal and our children are 6, 3 and 10 months! I imagine as children get older it gets even harder to eat together at night. Depending on your week, you may need to look ahead, cut out some activities and pencil in a plan for eating dinner together, making it a deliberate and intentional part of your family life.
Set the Mealtime Scene
We’ve heard it time and time again, but it’s a good thing to do: turn off the TV during mealtime. Play some quiet music instead– my kids love listening to piano music on Pandora. Light a candle or choose a special prayer that your kids can say before eating. The kids and I also colored and laminated placemats with Scripture for our table. We also try to make sure that the dining room floor is free of toys and that the table is completely cleared off before dinner (which can be quite the effort sometimes!).
Involve the Family in Meal Prep
As our kids grow, it’s been easier to involve them in the meal preparations. Our 6 year old and 3 year old like to rip lettuce, wash grapes, roll dough, and set the table. We keep the mood light and fun so they (hopefully) won’t feel that helping with dinner is something to dread! Another idea to try is having the kids choose what we’ll eat or pick a themed meal (Italian, all orange foods, etc) so they will always look forward to mealtime together.
Make the Conversation Fun
Even at six, my son loves to talk about his day. Of course, most of it is sharing random facts or events that we already know about, but it’s still makes for interesting conversation! There are lots of good conversation starters you can use to promote sharing at mealtime. One thing we like doing is picking questions out of a jar. These are very simple questions since we have young kids but it helps them share what’s on their minds rather than us just asking something general like, “did you have a good day?” Here are some ideas:
- If you could eat any food you wanted every day, what would it be?
- What was the best book you read this week?
- Who is your favorite character from Thomas the Tank Engine? (or whatever program, book, etc your kids like)
- If you could go on vacation anywhere, where would you go? (can you tell we’re dreamers?)
- Who did you sit by at lunch today? What song did you sing in music class? (and other school related questions)
What things do you do to make family mealtime fun and relaxing?