There’s something beautiful about coming together and sharing a family meal. Not only does it just feel right, but participating in regular family dinners has many benefits according to multiple studies. Children who participate in consistent meals with family are associated with higher self-esteem, better grades, and better food choices. They are also less likely to smoke, drink, engage in violence, and have body image issues. But with the hustle and bustle of American living, it can be difficult to make family dinners a priority. So here are a few tips on how to keep mealtimes fun so everyone looks forward to them.
5 Ways to Keep the Fun in Family Dinners
Let Your Kids Help. Most kids love helping in the kitchen. While your older kids can help with slicing and cooking, your smaller ones can help with mixing ingredients or gathering some of the safer supplies you’ll need like pots, pans, and utensils. When your kids feel like they have a hand in the process, it’ll make the ritual more exciting to them. You can even have each member of the family choose their own meal every week, so they have something to look forward to.
Don’t Be So Rigid. With so much going on during the week like running kids to soccer practices or music lessons, leave some room to be flexible. If certain afternoons are busier than others, maybe you can set up family dinners on a certain weekday, or on a Sunday when you can plan a big family dinner that everyone looks forward to. It’s okay if family dinners can’t happen every single night, and this way they are special and fun times instead of stressful ones.
Find Ways to Make Dinner Easy. You’re probably already working hard as it is, so you shouldn’t feel bad about taking a break from cooking. Make enough at the beginning of the week so you have leftovers throughout the week. That way, you’re not scrambling around and losing your mind thinking up new recipes every night. These days, there are also so many options for pre-fixed meals from grocery stores or online delivery services. Using these options from time to time will ease some of the pain of meal planning.
Switch Up the Location of Dinner. Try to change up where you have dinner once in a while. After all, what makes dinnertime sacred is not where you eat, but who you’re breaking bread with. Have a picnic outside in the springtime, eat by the pool in the summertime, or enjoy your patio dining set whenever possible. This will break up the routine and make meal sharing much more fun.
Encourage conversation. One of the best advantages of consistent family dinners is that they provide rare opportunities to talk with other family members without distraction. So put away the cell phones and laptops, and start up a conversation with your kids. You can even purchase a table topics question game to break the ice, or simply ask each person something about their day.