Do you eat together as a family? We do, but I am not polishing my halo. I am well aware of just how hard it can be to keep everyone happy and at the table at mealtimes. I have had a fair few battles behind me, but decided that family mealtimes were worth the challenge.
Both the husbeast and I grew up with family meals at the table and knew that this was something we wanted to continue with our family. In the early days the boys would often has an earlier meal and then sit with us and eat a snack or supper when we ate, but once they got to school age we mixed it up and now they get a healthy snack when they get home from school and we all eat together at around 6pm. I know this isnt possible for everyone, but any meal is better than no meal and breakfast together or lunch is a great idea too.
I asked Mini what he liked about eating meals as a family and his response was “we can all get together and talk about what our day was like and Mum and Dad can help me with any problems I might have” .
There are loads of sites and information about why we should eat together as a family, but sometimes it is the HOW that we need to work on.
10 Tips for encouraging family mealtimes
- Make a date – If you set a date and time for being at the table then it is more likely to happen. As a family we meal plan together and know which days we can all eat together and what we will be eating. Being consistent means that everyone knows what is expected and come to look forward to mealtimes at the family table.
- Remove interruptions – Dinner time for us is tech free. That means no TV, tablets or phones. We use the time to talk and communicate with each other without the interruptions. More than just talking mealtimes are a time for me to listen to the kids.
- Keep it simple. Meals do not have to all be grand, there is nothing wrong with soup and a sandwich, it is the act of coming together that is important. Some nights I am just to exhausted to cook a fancy meal, but we still gather together at the table as a family.
- There is nothing wrong with take aways – Oh yes even we have takeaways and there is something wonderful about the food gathered together on the table and everyone tucking in and there being NO COOKING involved! Purchasing food does not preclude quality time spent together as a family.
- Have themes. We love doing things like Fish Friday or taco tuesday. Traditions can bring great comfort and Sunday Lunch is something that we look forward to all week.
- Work as a group. We all have tasks like setting and unsetting the table. These are things that even the youngest child can help with. Not only does this ease the burden on the cook, but it teaches responsibility.
- Use conversation starters. If you find it hard to know what to talk about then conversation starters are a great way to embark on a discussion. There are lots of them out there. Middle School conversation starters, printable conversation starters, 10 family conversation starters and 6 preschool conversation starters. I used to pretend that we were newsreaders and we all took a segment talking about our day in a reportage style before passing on to the next person.
- It is never too late to start. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t eat together as a family. Pick a meal, any meal. Can’t make it dinner then try lunch or breakfast and start. It doesn’t take long to get into the habit.
- Make it fun. Every now and then we mix it up a little. I love doing two truths and a lie. it is fun for all involved and it is great to be silly every now and then. We try and keep the conversation light and don’t use meal times to berate the kids for something they haven’t done.
- Keep it realistic. Toddlers are never going to be able to sit at the table for 30 minutes, so give them something to occupy them whilst you eat. I don’t have an issue with the kids colouring whilst we eat or giving them an ice pop. I do however, expect them to ask to leave the table and also not keep getting up.
I love that my kids feed food as more than fuel and that they want to come to the family table. I hope that this will long continue, whether it be for a full meal or for afternoon tea.
Win a teatime take over with McCain
I am delighted to be working with McCain and their Tea Time Takeover competition. They are offering the chance to have your kitchen turned into a fairytale wonderland, as well as winning £250!
All you have to do is share a photo of your family sat at the kitchen table on the McCain facebook page and tell them why you want a ‘Teatime Takeover’.
Mini would love to have a Charlie and the chocolate factory themed kitchen and meal, whereas Maxi wants a Minions one! How wonderful would it be to have McCain take over your teatime?
You can find full terms and conditions here.