The television images of families sitting together around the dinner table may feel somewhat outdated in today’s fast-paced and diverse society. There are lots of reasons why it is often difficult for families to have regular family mealtimes, including work schedules, single-parenting, sports activities, music lessons, and other responsibilities. There are benefits to being intentional about planning family mealtimes, even if your family does not look like a television family.
The benefits of family mealtimes
- Introduces children to new foods, and teaches good nutrition and healthy eating habits
- Teaches etiquette and good table manners
- Helps to nurture closer family relationships and offers time for family members to talk with each other
- Builds family traditions
- Reduces stress because it’s a break from regular workday routines
Tips for successful family mealtimes
- Serve favorite foods, as well as new ones to try To start conversations, ask open-ended questions and give everyone a chance to talk.
- Save unpleasant or disciplinary conversations for another time.
- Create traditions, such as a pizza night, breakfast for dinner, or fancy night
- Model good manners and listening skills If you are pressed for time, choose a quick or make-ahead meal
- Turn off the TV, phones, and other screens to eliminate distractions
- Involve children in planning, preparation and serving the meal–even the youngest ones can help
Applying the family meal concept in child care programs
- Create a pleasant atmosphere for meal and snack times and encourage sharing and conversation
- Assign and rotate tasks among children (setting tables, cleaning up)
- Encourage healthy habits, like handwashing
- Explore different cultures by serving different foods and talking about food customs
Call Pennsylvania’s CONNECT Helpline at 1-800-692-7288 for information about your child’s development and connecting to Early Intervention Services in Pennsylvania.
Click here to print the infographic: Family Mealtimes.