According to The Family Dinner Project, sitting down to eat at the family dinner table provides children with numerous physical, academic, and social-emotional benefits. That’s why the non-profit organization refers to family dinners as “magic.” This magic is created through three elements: food, fun, and conversation.
Family Dinners Promote Togetherness
To create more meaningful family mealtimes, the Family & Children’s Center recommends you make this a priority, focusing more on the togetherness than the need for ‘elaborate’ meals. You can also benefit by making meal planning and grocery shopping a family affair. Children can also help prepare food or set the table and clean up.
The Family Dinner Table Sparks Conversations
An article by a family therapist in My Journal Courier takes a slightly different angle, sharing how family dinners can help children in mind, body, and soul. As an example of intellectual benefits, researchers discovered that conversations at dinner time increase the vocabulary of young children more than being read to.
Researchers found that mealtime chats introduced 1,000 rare words on average, compared to 143 from hearing storybooks. And teenagers who regularly eat with their families at dinner have lower rates of depression, while generally having a more positive outlook.
Eat Healthier at the Family Dinner Table
WebMD.com also shares benefits, including ones connected to health. At family meals, everyone tends to eat healthier foods, and children are less likely to become overweight. Plus, studies have indicated that children who eat meals with their families are less likely to start to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use drugs.
Family Dinners Get Children Involved
To engage children in the process, The Family Dinner Project also suggests that you offer children a choice between two meal plans. That way, they become part of the plan.
If possible, shop together and invite your children to select one fruit or vegetable that’s unfamiliar. Then, when you get home, investigate how to include it in a meal, perhaps in a salad.
Have your children participate in meal prep in age-appropriate ways. They recommend Curious Chef if you’d like to buy culinary tools for children.
The Kids Can Help Prepare The Meal
Fortunately, there are plenty of recipes that you can create with your children. Here are ideas from TheKitchn.com and Weelicious.com.
When you’re ready to have your children make a family meal by themselves, check out these recipes at TasteOfHome.com. Scroll through the list—from Chocolate Chip, PB & Banana Sandwiches to Fruity Peanut Butter Pitas, Princess Toast, Flying Saucers, and more!
Don’t Stress Out Over Dinner
Other experts point out that not all family dinners are equal. And they aren’t referring to the food being served. What matters is the quality of the conversations and how relaxed the environment is.
So, if parents are stressed because they feel obligated to eat together every single night, the benefits aren’t as high. So, if children have school activities on certain nights, being flexible on who eats when can be important.
Even if you can’t gather around the family dinner table every night, just think about all of the benefits your children will reap when you do. So, when you and your child prepare a family meal and sit down to eat together, celebrate this special occasion!
Horizon Education Centers
At Horizon Education Centers, our children eat lunch together. We view it as an opportunity to continue learning. The kids learn from each other, and their teachers can learn a little bit more about their students outside of the classroom setting.