Global statistics indicate that children who don’t eat dinner with their family are more likely to skip school and a study at Columbia University showed that they are twice as likely to drink alcohol, four times as likely to smoke tobacco, and two and a half times more likely to smoke marijuana. In fact, children who do eat dinner with their parents are less likely to be overweight, less likely to engage in drug and alcohol use, more likely to do better in school, and report better relationships with their parents.
Many parents explain that there just isn’t enough time. They report wanting to spend more time having family meals but that they just don’t know how to fit them in. And we know, it’s a fast-paced busy world out there. One kid has soccer practice, one kid has piano, another one is a picky eater, and to top it off we have to work late some days. Then to even think about cooking dinner feels impossible. So how can we make it happen? It is absolutely a challenge but here are our best steps to help you enjoy mealtime with your family.
Step one: Choose a dinner time that makes the most sense for your family. We are partial to 6pm – most after-school activities are over by 5:30 and we can generally be out of the office by 5pm if we are in by 8:30am. And make it mandatory that unless someone has a time-specific commitment (i.e. soccer goes until 7pm) that they are expected at the dinner table.
Step two: Simplicity is key. It is no small task to cook dinner for your family so on the days when time is scarce, easy and simple meals are best. Food52 has a great list you can peruse!
Step three: Let your kids have a hand in the meal planning. Children are more likely to eat what’s on the table if they have helped to choose what’s being served. And if they’re old enough to help out, even better!
Step four: Be democratic. Let everyone at the table suggest a topic, so you’re not bogged down by any one subject. Or have everyone write down something they’d like to topic and draw them out of a bowl.
Whatever you do, make it fun! Table games can help to alleviate some of the serious conversation that is important but sometimes exhausting. Kids of all ages love the game “Would you rather…?” (our CEO loves it!) and bigger kids get a kick out of “Two truths and a Lie,” particularly because it allows them to share things with you that you might not know. Little ones are partial to “I Spy” and the “List Game.”
We hope you manage to get to the table with your family as often as possible. And we’d love to hear your ideas for family dinners too!
Also: Don’t have kids or they’re already out of the house? Most statistics about family meals translate to adults as well – we are healthier and happier when we sit down, eat slowly, and have conversations with people we love (even when the conversation is rowdy and complicated!).