Why Family Dinners Aren’t Just About Dinner

It’s one of life’s simple pleasures, enjoying time with family over good food. So why aren’t we doing it more often and placing emphasis on this special time each day?

Times have changed and we are living in a more demanding world with tempting distractions. Work hours seem to blend into family time and everyone has their own agenda (or iGadget). Modern life is breaking a family tradition and it is certainly not for the better.

Sharing a meal, whether it’s breakfast or dinner (lunch is pretty much out of the question on most weekdays) gives us a chance to check in with each other and catch up on things we may have missed during the day. It’s these conversations that can lead to positive effects on a child’s values, their self-esteem and family ties.

Then there’s the chance for parents to role model healthy dietary habits which kids will carry into adulthood. There’s also evidence from Harvard University to suggest that families who eat together consume a wider range of nutrients than those that don’t get the chnace to sit down around a table together.

If eating as a family seems hard to achieve then perhaps you could work on a goal of dining together once a week or, if you manage it occasionally, then try increasing the frequency by one meal a week.

Here are some ideas to help you on your way:

10 ways to help bring back the fun to your family dinner

  1. Design some games such as ‘The Conversation Starter’ – questions on cards that might prompt conversations with older children who can be prone to grunting rather than talking.
  2. If time is short, ensure you have some quick dinners to hand. Dinners that you can prepare ahead of time, freeze and reheat are ideal.
  3. Design a weekly dinner plan together so there is an invested interest in what’s going to be on the table.
  4. Involve the kids in cooking.
  5. Talk to younger children about the food you are eating, how it was grown and why it’s good for you.
  6. Ask if anyone knows any jokes and have some up your own sleeve to surprise and impress!
  7. Keep the table free of distractions, mobile devices and try to avoid phone calls. Treat the time as sacred.  You can catch up on calls after everyone has left the table.
  8. So children aren’t rushing through their meals to leave the table, make it a rule that everyone stays put until the last person finishes eating. This will help keep things calm.
  9. Ask your children to take turns to set the table. They can decorate it how they like, draw placemats and choose their seat.
  10. Talk about the present of course, but it’s also fun to talk about the past and plan for the future; holidays, birthdays, upcoming school assignments, new movies and what friends are up to.

Catching up over a meal is a subtle way parents can stay in touch with their kids (without being too in their face). After all, it’s just a family sitting down and eating dinner together – what is so unnatural about that?

This article was adapted by the Kidspot NZ Team from an original article by Karla Gilbert for Kidspot.com.au.

In a busy household, how do you ensure that the family eats together at least some of the time?

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  1. Alezandra 03/03/2019 at 11:22 pm

    Argh, this is something we need to work on. I’ve been telling my husband we need a device free dinner. We start it but never follow through…now my son needs the TV on when he has dinner. I just find this to be a bad habit that we need to remove. My son will start associating dinners that there should be the TV playing. Yes, conversation between us is a good start.

  2. SarahBlair 02/03/2019 at 10:22 pm

    We eat dinner together every night, there are no devices allowed and the TV is turned off, it’s a really good way to catch up on everyone’s day and to make plans for the coming week etc. I will often ask one or two of the kids to plan (and cook if they are old enough) a meal for the coming week so its not left to me everytime and so they can learn about meal planning and cooking.

  3. kymmage 01/03/2019 at 7:31 am

    This is a good idea. We have a dining table but often it has a computer or two on it 😂 we gather for dinner together and watch an episode of something family friendly on Netflix. It would be good to chat then too. Usually when I’m going on a walk with my kids we talk then. And if we are at the supermarket I always try to show them the vegetables and talk about what vitamins they might have. But never do that when we eat!

  4. felicity beets 28/02/2019 at 8:26 am

    A good idea to eat together especially when everyone has so many activities during the week it can be the only time for everyone to catch up and not be distracted by other things.

  5. MuddledUpMolly 27/02/2019 at 3:02 pm

    We eat together every night as a family and do all of the above. Great ideas here for families who are wanting to create a better routine for togetherness. We really value our time together as a family 🙂

  6. dawnblyth 27/02/2019 at 11:44 am

    We eat together and chat about our day or things that are going on. We often have great laughs at the table with some discussions.

  7. Mands1980 25/02/2019 at 11:51 am

    We eat together as a family ever night my husband is home with his work he can be away some nights but I still sit down and eat with the kids. We think it’s really important to sit down and establish good routine and the kids eating a decent healthy meal. I try to be strict on no technology at the table eg iPads as it’s so antisocial. I also get the kids to help set the table they all have turns.

  8. Bevik1971 25/02/2019 at 10:04 am

    We actually purchased a dining table for this purpose not so long ago – we live in a pretty small apartment so got a small size table so we can all sit down and have a meal together. I ask our 6 year old about her day at school, she usually goes into details about who she played with and what they did at school which is great 🙂 But my partner and I can also talk about our days too and include our daughter in that conversation which she enjoys.

  9. Jen_Wiig 19/02/2019 at 1:17 pm

    We eat together most nights, very lucky we can due to work hours. What we domt do enoigh of though is talk at the table while having our meal.. So we will be there but all checked out either watching tv or busy on a device and its deff something want to get better at, for now its on Sat and Sun is device free and we will just have music on in background… I liked some of these ideas to help get the convo flowing etc

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