Amid September’s back-to-school days with sports activities in full swing, my guess “what parents really, really, really want (well maybe) is to sit down to at least one meal together as a family! According to a 2017 report of Family Meals Institute (FMI), Americans want, first and foremost, to eat “at home together” and secondly to make that a home cooked meal when possible. After all, studies show family meals lead to lower obesity, better nutrient consumption, better grades, and better parent relationships with their teens, including a lower risk of using drugs and smoking. Despite these benefits, just thinking of sitting down to a meal not to mention cooking with pre and post school activities on the calendar may make you break into a cold sweat. So how do you assemble your crew for at least one more meal during the week? Consider these four simple tips to get your family to the table, and once you commit, you will see your children’s confidence, conversation and compassion grow with each meal!
Raise your Mitt to Commit®: Take out the calendar and start small. Find at least one day and time during the week when everyone is available, and schedule it as you would an after-school activity. It may be 6:00pm or 7:30 pm. The hour doesn’t matter as much as making this time with your family a priority. Make a promise or pledge designating that same day and time of the week to establish a habit. The more often you plan and write it on your calendar, the more you commit.
Be Creative: Family meals don’t always have to be around a table, they don’t always have to be prepared at home, nor does it have to be dinner! Plan a picnic or post-game meal to celebrate victories (or if your team lost, celebrate the small wins with a game-replay). No worries if you don’t have time to cook, many supermarkets now offer healthy ready-to-eat foods or do the meal prep for you. All you need to do is take it home and pop in the oven or on the stove. Sometimes keeping it super simple is better. Remember a bowl of vegetable soup, a sandwich and glass of milk make a quick easy balanced nutritious meal. And if you need to break-up meal time boredom, invite family friends over for a fun pizza making party. They can also help by bringing their favorite pizza topping. Finally, if the dinner hour is too hectic, consider a family breakfast or lunch one day of the week!
Share Compassion and Conversation: Invite a relative or friend to join your family meal-time fun. The FMI report states more than one-third of family dinners are missed due to adults who live alone, so why not invite a single relative or neighbor to join you? Sharing dinner with grandparents is an opportunity to learn about your family history, and having a friend over for a meal creates an appreciation of different mealtime traditions or cultures.
Build Skills and Confidence: Getting children and teens involved in meal preparation, setting the table, and clean-up increases confidence, responsibility and manners –getting them ready for when they graduate and leave the “nest”!
Here are some of those skills….
Hand washing and food safety.
Setting the table! The fork goes to the “right ” side of the plate. The knife is on the “left” side of the plate and the spoon is placed to the “right” beside the knife. The glass goes to the “left” side above the plate. A fun and quick way to remember is to have your child form a “b” (for bread) and “d” (for drink) with their fingers facing them, and they will almost never forget where the drinking glass should be placed on the table.
Older children master Pouring skills, and with adult supervision Cut and Cook vegetables!
Table Manners 101!
And No Running Out When The Meal Is Over – Don’t Forget about “Cleaning-Up”!
“Always Make Time for A Meal with Family and Friends!”
Special Thank You to Steven D. Katz Photography
For more ..look for my next post on “Five Easy Ways Children Can Help Put A Meal On The Table”!