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.
It’s lovely that you work hard to create a family mealtime with the kids. We definitely have a couple of times a week at the table together but with after school activities and differing schedules, we don’t do it every night! The time we do have is lovely though… It’s nice to come together.
I completely agree that meal times should be tech free. It’s nice to get together as a family and discuss everyone’s days x
My husband and I both work full-time (and long hours) so it can be hard for us to all eat together as a family, but we do try to do it as often as we can. I love the social aspect of it and it’s great to catch-up with what my children have been doing that day.
I eat with my son most days, but as a family we usually only manage it at the weekends because my husband tends to work late. It is a good idea. We keep dinner gadget and book free.
As always, such wonderful tips – we always try to eat dinner together – even if my teenager wants to take dinner up into his bedroom! I generally put my foot down and say no. I grew up without meal times around the table – well, not regular ones, due to my dad’s job, but it is an important family event and a way for everyone to connect
We always try to eat together when we can but my other half doesn’t finished work till late most nights so it’s usually only weekends that we do eat together. I wish I could change this .
The Sunday roast was always the meal, growing up, that we sat around a table with no TV/Radio on and everyone would be present for the whole meal x
I actually remember family meal times from my childhood fondly I think it was such a nice thing to do. We would have no TV though on Saturdays or Sundays (I don’t remember which now) we would list to a certain radio show.
I have to admit we struggle with eating together purely as my husband works in retail and does unsociable shifts. We try to when he is day off though
It would be brilliant, Jen, Emma absolutely loved everything McCain and it would do us for many, many family dinners, that amount of food :-). xx
Great tips Jen. We eat together around our table the majority of days. The only exceptions are when someone has to eat earlier or later because of after school clubs or commitments etc. It’s lovely to sit and chat together, it is a real social event for us.
We had got into terrible habits in our old house – the dining table was in the lounge – the telly was always on and the kids would eat with tablets next to them. I stopped all that when we moved – fresh start – new rules! Our dining area is now in the kitchen, no telly, and I have a strict no tech at the table rule. So much nicer!!
We must try harder at home because when we are on holiday we always sit and eat together without TV and everyone says how much they like it!
Great tips…we always make sure there’s no tech at dinner time, I think it’s so important.
We always make a point of eating as a family, it allowed everyone to share their days news.