Young children and even babies are used to seeing parents with their faces in a phone from birth. It's why we're unplugging, putting the phones away and holding tightly to the time-honored tradition of eating as a family.
When you set aside electronic devices and gather around a table as a family, these mealtimes help relieve stress and cement familial bonds. Plus, studies show time and again that family mealtimes are good for your kids.
If your family hasn't gotten the hang of sit-down dinners quite yet, here are some tips for making it part of your weekly routine.
Involve Children in the Menu
While grocery shopping, ask little ones to help pick out ingredients for the meals ahead. Give older kids specific tasks at the grocery store ("Please pick out 3 tomatoes, please!") and don't sweat it if they don't grab the perfect ones.
Help them mark items off the grocery list so they look forward to mealtimes at home.
Try a New Recipe Together
Between after-school activities and endless weekend activities, sometimes the thought of cooking anything but the staples feels overwhelming. Instead, try out just one new recipe a week and let kids be involved in putting it together. A Vegetable Crinkle Cutter is a great tool for them to use during prep work. Let older kids set the table.
Create Theme Nights
If you're already picking up a pizza every Friday night, coining this tradition as Pizza Fridays might be all it takes to get kids excited about family dinner. Try starting one as simple as Taco Tuesdays or Kids Pick Thursdays where kids can choose the menu, though you might want to include some parameters or it could be chocolate-chip pancakes every week.
The Question Bowl
In a study conducted by New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, mealtime banter supports literacy development. The study also showed that children between the ages of three and five learned around 1,000 rare words from sitting at the dinner table compared to roughly 143 rare words from parents reading storybooks aloud.
In lieu of flowers as the table centerpiece, keep slips of papers with questions in the middle of the table. During mealtime, everyone takes a turn picking out one slip and responding to the question.
These could be prompts to get children to talk about their day or they could simply be funny "What if" questions to pose to them. Not only is it a fun game, but it keeps conversation fun and light-hearted around the dinner table.
It's Not About the Meal—It's About Family Time
Don't be stressed out about creating the perfect dinner. Instead, focus on spending dinner with family without any other distractions. And if it's a new routine you're trying to incorporate at home, don't feel frustrated if it's met with resistance. Instead, keep at it and eventually, dinner time will end up being the best part of everyone's week.