In today’s world, eating together as a family feels like a retro thing of the past. Who has the time? It feels virtually impossible to schedule one more thing like family dinners into your daily itinerary with work, school, dance practice, soccer, and everything in between. But consider this . . .
What if family dinners every night, or even a few nights a week, enhanced your overall family experience? Or what if carving out that time to eat a meal together each night allowed you to learn about each other in ways you may not have noticed before? What if your kids complain the whole time but secretly love it? Here are ten unexpected benefits to eating together as a family and making it a routine in your household—try it for yourself!
10 Benefits of Eating Together as a Family
1. Strike a pose, baby!
Eating together as a family is a great way to model healthy eating habits for your children and babies. When your kids see you eating and enjoying your veggies, they are more likely to try and eat those on their own. Furthermore, if you have a new little one in the household, eating together is an excellent way for them to study how you eat a meal. Baby-led weaning households can benefit from having intentional time with each other to practice chewing, swallowing, and safe eating habits.
2. What day is it?
I don’t know about you, but my days are full from the second I wake up until the second my head hits the pillow. I love family dinners because it allows us to reset, think about the day ahead, and make sure we are on the same page regarding schedules and timing with everything we have going on. Every household is busy. Having that time carved out together as a family ensures that everyone’s schedule is honored and that all activities are planned and organized. Bonus points if your family has a shared schedule for everyone to refer to and follow!
3. Remember when . . . ?
Remember that time dad drove four hours in the wrong direction on the way to Disney World? How about when mom cooked a whole turkey for Thanksgiving dinner but forgot to turn the oven on? Family dinners can be a great way to reminisce all together or look back on fun memories you created as a family. Children will see how important it is to keep memories alive to cultivate a family environment full of unexpected moments. After all, those moments are the building blocks for everything to come as kids grow and move on to form their own families and traditions. Reminiscing can also provide entertaining content for any family dinner! Seeing how an event transpired from each individual perspective is sure to provide laughs.
4. The Pursuit of Trivia
Have you ever wondered what you’d do if you ever found yourself on the set of Jeopardy!? If you have, consider adding family dinners to your repertoire each week. Doing so allows for you and your family to quiz each other on various categories. I can assure you, the earlier, the better to make those topics stick!
At our kitchen table growing up, we rotated placemats that had a different topic on each one. For example, we had one with a map of the United States and another with the chronological list of presidents. Each night at dinner, my family and I would quiz each other. Let me say, I dare you to challenge one of my siblings or me on our state capital knowledge! Schedule those family dinners so that you are ready to rock your next game night!
5. What’s the magic word?
Family dinners are great ways to practice the art of manners and being polite with your little ones. From setting the table to loading the dishwasher, eating together as a family provides ample opportunity for children to learn the value of manners. Practicing in the comfort of your home also creates an environment for kids to feel safe and secure as they navigate these important lessons. It’s also a great time for mom and dad to act as a model for the kids and brush up on their skills as well!
6. What did you learn in school today?
This age-old question has been asked around countless dinner tables for decades. Frequently, the answer is the ever-popular response of “nothing.” Consider trying a different spin on this question and create an atmosphere that encourages all to share about their day, even parents. Avoid closed-ended questions and instead pose ones that require a more thoughtful response.
Most students in school begin their day with a “Morning Meeting” with their teacher and classmates that promotes inclusion, social/emotional learning, and sharing personal experiences. Bring that idea to the dinner table and institute an “Evening Meeting.” I’m willing to bet you will learn so much more about each other by the meal’s end! The conversations certainly will provide much more lively content for all to enjoy. Utilizing an approach where all feel seen, heard, and included will only enhance the day-to-day familial experience.
7. Your kid eats what?!
A significant benefit of eating together as a family is the new foods that are introduced and attempted. Your children will be able to see a variety of foods served at the table. This will widen their palates and expand their food horizons!
Set goals with your family or create a checklist of foods to try each month. Allow your children to take ownership of this fun activity to build excitement and keep the momentum going. Who knows, they may take such an interest in new foods that you could be planting the seeds for budding careers in the food industry!
8. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
Another unexpected benefit to having dinners as a family is the opportunity to share the high and low parts of the day. We all go through the ups and downs of any given day. Having the space with each other around the dinner table can create fun as well as meaningful conversation. Did someone frustrate you at recess? Was there cake in the conference room at work? Use these easy conversation starters as teachable moments for the whole family about how life is full of highs and lows and how we are along for the ride.
9. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I didn’t think of it that way.
It’s no secret that in today’s world, there are widely varying points of view. This can present itself at work, within friend groups, and, you guessed it, at your kitchen table. While it can be uncomfortable disagreeing with someone, especially someone close to you, it can be a great way to open conversation about topics that can feel hard to talk about. Hearing and accepting a different point of view is also an important lesson that we all could brush up on.
Kids and adults alike can benefit from seeing a respectful sharing of viewpoints. It is so important for everyone to be able to see what a healthy conversation looks like. And, should a conflict arise, that’s fine! Use it to demonstrate how we can think and feel differently about a topic, understanding at the core that we need to remain respectful.
10. (Looks blankly up from television) Huh?
Sounds like a familiar scene, right? We’ve all been there. I’m embarrassed to admit the number of times I’ve parked myself on the couch, shoveling food in my mouth and tuning the world out. Some might call that a form of self-care. In reality, it is so detrimental to our mental health. Truly enjoying our meals, taking the time to appreciate the company around us, and savoring every bite can be a great way to enhance the dining experience and our overall mood. Families can benefit from creating an atmosphere at the dinner table that encourages mindful, intentional eating and conversation.
Eating together as a family can be a great thing. But let’s be serious, we are all BUSY! It might be hard to schedule a dinner every night right away. There is no shame in starting small. Make it a goal to try to have dinner together once a week and gradually build up from there. I’m willing to bet that the more you incorporate it into your daily routine, the easier it becomes and the more enjoyable the everyday family experience. Cheers to implementing a new routine that your family will treasure for years to come!