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Why family meal time is important

Family having a meal

It may seem difficult as your young children tend to eat at different times to you, but it can start with a couple of meals on a weekend and as the children get older, so it increases. All you need to do is find an appropriate time that works for your family.

My husband gets home late every Thursday evening, so I have started eating supper early with my kids, at the table, on this week night. This means that I don’t snack on their left overs and I also get to eat with company rather than on my own when they have gone to bed. I enjoy it and the children thrive on it. My 4 year old son always reminds me that I am having supper with them on Thursdays.

Weekends are also a great place to start, with everyone being together. We enjoy morning brunches (round about 10am, so the little ones would have had a light snack before that time) or, even better, early supper in the evenings. I really enjoy this meal with the family and it has its other benefits – you and hubby have the whole evening ahead of you when the children are in bed, giving you time to relax, enjoy a movie together, and still have an early night.

On family meal nights, you want to serve a meal that everyone can enjoy. So choose meals that the young ones can eat as finger foods and that mum and dad can also enjoy. Examples of suppers that we choose for family meal nights include:

  • Quiche with any filling (e.g. Quiche Lorraine) with salad for parents and cut up cucumber/tomato/carrot sticks for children.
  • Sausages and mash – cut up the sausages into bite sized pieces for the children and if the child is not yet capable of feeding themselves with a spoon, rather serve them cut up boiled potato with butter instead of mash. Serve this with steamed broccoli and garden peas.
  • Pizza is always a fun option as this way the children can also help prepare the meal. Cut this into bite size pieces for the littlies.
  • Fresh fish baked in the oven with butter and lemon and served with mayonnaise for dipping. Compliment with a salad for parents and sweetcorn/cucumber/baby tomatoes for children. If your child is very young, they might need some help eating the fish as it is quite flaky.
  • Pasta with Bolognese sauce which can be made loaded with vegetables. Serve with salad for the parents and sliced cucumber or carrots for the children.

And of course, we always have to end the meal with a little scoop of ice cream and the obligatory sprinkles.

Try to involve the children in the family meal preparations.

My son particularly enjoys laying the table. He counts the knives and forks and learns how to place them at the table, he counts the place mats and the serviettes, and sometimes even picks a few flowers from the garden for the table. While this is an age appropriate activity, you can start making them feel important by getting involved from an early age, and is a great way of giving praise for their input into the meal.

Experts have found the benefit of family meals for fussy children, amazing. The more they see their parents and siblings enjoying different foods together, the more likely they are to eventually try new things. It is a nice place to talk about the foods and what the family favourite is. Try to make family meal time fun and stress free for the whole family.

Eating together at the table as a family is the one of the most important activities you can do for your children.

It gives you a chance to model good behaviour and facilitates good conversation between family members, helping your children foster better communication skills and it strengthens family connections.

Here are some interesting facts about family meals that show the incredible impact that this habit can have on your kids at an older age:

  • Families who eat together tend to include a greater variety of foods, emphasize more fruits and vegetables, and consume more nutritious diets overall, which result in lower obesity rates and decreasing risk for long-term chronic diseases.
  • Shared mealtimes facilitate communication between family members. Studies show that meal conversations are “potent vocabulary boosters” and the shared stories can help children become more resilient to life’s challenges.
  • Studies have shown that students who come from families that have consistent mealtimes tend to achieve greater academic success, show improvements in test scores, and earn higher grades.

So get your children involved, get your family together and start enjoying your meal times as a family.

Most importantly, have fun!

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