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Read This to Give Your Next Family Meal a Whole New Meaning

“Families that eat together stay together.” 

– Anonymous

Family time is a relic of the past. Or at least it can feel that way.

Homework, after-school activities, play dates, work emails and household chores all nibble away at family togetherness.

And on the increasingly rare occasions when family members do something together  – it’s more by coincidence than planning.

What can you do to re-set the family rhythm?

To make quality family time a regular thing?

To ensure your kids grow into healthy, happy and well-educated adults?

To forge strong bonds that increase your child’s resilience – even when you’re not around?

Simple.  Starting this week, you can commit to having…


…Regular family mealtimes…

…with a renewed sense of purpose!

Together. As often as possibleOn a regular basis.

Even if your busy schedule only allows for a few family meals together a week – that’s better than none.

Because families need this togetherness – to re-connect, re-energise and re-discover each other.

And over time – those 15 minutes add up to hours and hours of quality family time.

And as the hours go by, you’ll build a family foundation of connection and a safe-haven for your kids – that will reap benefits for life.

How Family Meal Time Makes Such a Big Difference

#1 Build Family Bonds

When you think about family conversation at meal times – don’t get hung up on perfection.

Some of the chats will be loud and silly, others quiet and deep.  Sometimes, everyone will be in a good mood, sometimes not.

Just make sure that everyone gets a chance to talk – and listen – to each other.

Ask about your child’s day, current events in the news, or just let them talk.

And if you are stuck for topics – here are a few to get you started.

Sitting down together for family meals makes it that much easier to share stories and keep up-to-date with what’s going on in your kid’s lives.

“By engaging your children in conversation, you teach them how to listen and provide them with a chance to express their own opinions. This allows your children to have an active voice within the family”  

     University of Florida IFAS Extension


#2 Encourage Healthy Eating Habits

According to science, kids who have regular family meals eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried foods and fizzy pop.

So family meal time is an excellent time to teach the kids those healthy eating habits (and encourage them to eat their veggies).

Where possible, try to provide a balanced meal…

…but don’t be too hard on yourself when you’ve had a long day (takeaway is a backup when all else fails).

Try to get everyone involved! Family mealtime is the perfect opportunity to prepare food and cook together as a family!

Experiment with new recipes, prepare traditional meals with a twist, have theme nights or even invent your own recipes. (For a quick smile, take a look at this Kid in the Kitchen video).

RELATED: Wondering how dependent your kids are on screens? Find out your child’s screen score!

Find Your Child’s Optimal Screen Routine
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#3 Increase Wellbeing

Family meal times have been shown to boost kids’ motivation and self-esteem…

…while reducing high-risk factors such as depression, alcohol abuse and suicide.

And by providing a regular and consistent time to get together over dinner…

…you’re helping to keep communication flowing…

…so your kids are more likely to reach out to you when they face difficulties…

…because they feel more loved and secure.

“The sense of security and togetherness provided by family meals helps nurture children into healthy, well-rounded adults” 

University of Florida IFAS Extension


#4 Boost Grades

Did you know your kids can improve their language and vocabulary by simply sitting at the dinner table?

By listening to the conversations of parents and older siblings, young kids are exposed to ‘rare words‘ they would not come across in their storybooks or in school.

Studies have shown that regular meal times are a predictor of high achievement for older kids too. Even more so than extra-curricular activities, homework and sports.

Research shows that kids do better in school when they grow up in homes with regular family meals.

RELATED: Losing your child to screens?

Get your Child's Screen Score & Optimal Screen Routine - in just minutes.
Click for your Child's Optimal Screen Time Routine
#5 Reduce Stress

Family dinners are something the whole family can look forward to.

They provide valuable down time to relax after the stress of school or work.

Kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have better parent-child relationships.

Parents benefit too! A 2008 study found family meal times helped working mums reduce stress after long hours in the office.

And as the whole family can get involved, preparing family meals doesn’t have to be a chore! The more the family chips in, the less work for you.

“Frequent family dinners have a positive impact on children’s values, motivation, personal identity, and self-esteem”

University of Florida IFAS Extension

#6 Save Money

Whether you’re cooking from fresh ingredients or a can,  a meal at home is usually far less expensive than eating out.

And because you’re in control of the ingredients, they’re usually healthier too!

The money you save can be put towards other family activities such as a vacation or family day out.

So use that as an incentive to get your family around the dinner table at home!

Magical Meal Time

Have you ever thought of making dinner time more sacred?

Rather than just focusing on getting the meal on the table?

Soft candles, fresh flowers, a pre-meal moment of gratitude?

Maybe it’s time to think about making the process more pleasurable – and not just a necessary prelude to bedtime or homework rituals?

In an age where work and play time are increasingly indistinguishable, educational pressure is mounting, and distractions are only a click away…

meal time is one of the only times that families can press PAUSE and come together.

So let’s make family meal time really count!

Don’t Make Screens the Focus…

…by allowing screen time at the dinner table.

Whether televisions, tablets or phones, make the dinner table a screen-free zone.

You could establish a drop zone outside the kitchen or dining room to deposit all screens…

…and ensure the TV is switched off and stays off.

How dependent are your kids are on screens? Find out your child’s screen score!

Family Meal Time Survival Guide

Here are out 6 quick takeaways to get the most out of family meal time:

  1. Keep it Simple – Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Collect quick recipes & keep your kitchen stocked with all the basics. (And keep a conversation starter list nearby).
  2. Plan ahead on weekends – Take advantage of any free time to bake a lasagna or make a pot of chilli. Freeze leftovers for quick weekday eating.
  3. Involve the whole family – Work together as a team to share responsibilities. Even younger kids can help out by setting the table.
  4. Make meal time sacred – Go beyond ‘getting food on the table’ and include 1-2 simple rituals that will make mealtime more than just a duty but turn it into a special moment in the day!
  5. Turn off the gadgets  Turn off the TV, tablets and phones. Keep the dinner table a screen-free zone.
  6. Use takeaways as your backup – Don’t let busy workloads get in the way of family meal time. Keep the local takeaway number handy just in case.

So that’s 6 practical ways to make family mealtimes more meaningful.

Questions for you! How do you make family meal time count in your family? Any secret tips to ease it into the family routine?  Or make it more special?  We’d love to know what you think!

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