Has mealtime become a lost art in our culture?
I believe that this may be the case for many families. Too many families are so over-scheduled that it is normal to eat on the run, to eat while doing homework, watching TV, or surfing the internet.
I think that most American families are starved for quality time together. I believe that mealtime should be a daily priority that will allow for family connection, time to laugh, time to learn, time to tell stories, and share triumphs and trials. To me mealtime includes the preparation of the meal, eating of the meal, and finally the clean-up process.
Does that sound like too much of a time commitment? If so then think of it as an investment in your family! Time to nourish your family and build bonds that will connect you together for the rest of your lives.
Current research found a connection between regular family dinners and children who are better able to manage their emotions and who can share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions in appropriate ways. Long-term benefits include better cognitive function. In fact, dinner conversation was shown to be an important factor in the vocabulary development of the child, even more so than reading a book. Children who participate in regular family meals, generally eat more fruits and veggies, have less obesity, and are more likely to make healthier choices when they are on their own. The greatest benefits are found when a family shares in at least 5 meals per week. That doesn’t just include dinner but you can also count breakfast and lunch.
Making Meal Time = Family Time
Give everyone a specific task during the preparation of the meal. Make sure these tasks are age-appropriate. For example, small children can wash fruit and veggies, help set the table, pour ingredients, and help stir. Older children can peel and chop food, measure ingredients, and prepare sauces and dressings.
The more you teach your children about the process of cooking the more helping hands you will have in the kitchen.
What sort of tasks could be assigned during eating time? It’s not that we want specific tasks, because we want this time to be a time for spontaneous conversation. There are times, however, when you may want to come to the table with a prepared agenda. For example, maybe it’s a time when everyone takes a turn to express something special that happened during their day or they could share something they are grateful for, just get the conversation going. One of our favorite activities is quoting movie lines and trying to guess what movie they are from, this is how my children have mastered several different accents.
Clean Up Time
Give everyone a specific task for clean up too. Clear the table, rinse the dishes, wash the dishes or load the dishwasher, put leftovers in storage containers or pack for lunches the next day, wipe down the countertops and table. We even have someone in charge of picking our clean-up music so we can all dance and sing together.