Did you know?
Eating meals together as a family…
- Can help build stronger and closer relationships with your children.
- Encourages healthier and more structured eating habits in children.
- Is connected to eating more nutritious foods (vegetables, fruits, and whole grains), eating less overall fat, and drinking less soda.
- Helps children explore and try new foods. If they see you trying a new dish or vegetable, they are more likely to give it a try as well.
- Can help enhance your children’s language development. Having conversations at the table increases their vocabulary.
- Can build positive self-esteem in your children.
Making Family Meal Time Happen!
Include your kids in conversation. Talk about ideas, stories, and feelings. Ask them “What made you laugh today?” or “What is your favorite vegetable? What do you like about it?” Asking questions that start with “what” and “how” or “tell me about” will encourage children to talk more.
Prepare a meal together. Let the little ones help set the table, rip lettuce for a salad or help with dishes. Cooking together is a great way to bond and make memories.
Refocus on Family
This is a time to focus on spending time with your family. Avoid distractions by turning off the TV and video games, and letting the answering machine take phone calls.
Who says family mealtime has to be inside? Pack up the food, spread out an old blanket, and bring the meal outside for a fun picnic.
Family meals help kids explore and try new foods. If they see you trying something new, they are more likely to give it a try as well.
Learning to Love Veggies
Encourage your kids to try a new vegetable. Let them pick a vegetable they would like to try and ask them why they chose it. Then, showcase it in the main dish or a side dish in your meal.
Even if you only have time for a simple meal, take the time to sit down and enjoy it with your family. Make family mealtime a lasting tradition.
Do It Yourself Activity Instructions:
Setting up mealtimes for success is key! Eating environments can often foster or hinder this. Using the graph paper provided, take a moment to draw a diagram of whatever spaces your family eats and cooks in, whether it is in your home, a family member or friend’s home or in the community. Be sure to include things like:
- Where food is prepared
- Where food is eaten
- Arrangement of any furniture, including high chairs
- Location of any nearby televisions
- Location of any nearby telephones (be sure to include cell phones)
As you look at your diagram, ask yourself a few questions:
- Is there enough space for your family to eat together?
- Is dining furniture or space easily accessible? Is dining furniture or space used for other purposes?
- Are there clear pathways for family to get to the dining furniture and space?
- Are the cooking and dining spaces accessible to one another? Are they separate or joined? What is your preference?
- Is there a television in the dining space? If yes, what would happen if it were removed?
- Is there a telephone in the dining space? Are cell phones allowed in the dining space? If yes, what would happen if this changed?
Use your answers to see if there are things you want to change to encourage family meals. Jot down the changes you plan to make on your diagram. Lastly, pledge to eat a certain number of meals together as a family! Take your pledge card with you and hang it somewhere easily seen to remind you.
- Kidshealth.org → Parents Site → Nutrition and Fitness
Materials for Family Meals Learning Center:
- Family Meals Full Materials
- Graph Paper
- Clipboard(s) Optional
- Colored Pencils
- Pledge Card
- Copies of Enjoying the Family Meal
Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. (2012). Together Counts. Retrieved from www.togthethercounts.com.
Meals Matter. (2012). Meals Matter: Meal Planning Made Simple. Retrieved from www.mealsmatter.org.
The J.M. Smucker Company. The Power of Family Meals. Retrieved from www.poweroffamilymeals.com.
Nemours. Kids Health. Retrieved from www.kidshealth.org/parent/.
United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Enjoying the Family Meal”. Nibbles for Health.
Special thanks to Angeline Vanto for creating this learning center