These nice days have me anticipating signs of spring. I love hearing the birds in the morning and seeing the shoots of daffodils and tulips emerging from the ground. What do you look forward to in the spring? It’s a great conversation starter while you are in the car traveling or eating dinner together.
Why are family meals important? From a nutrition standpoint, it allows children to spend time with parents in the kitchen preparing the food together. When new foods are introduced, children are more apt to try them and in general, families make better food choices when food is prepared and eaten together. When we spend positive time together as a family, we are establishing connections that will help shape your child’s identity, their values and their priorities (Dr. Peter Benson, of the Search Institute).
So how do we make it a priority to eat together when time seems so limited and there are so many distractions? Here are a few tips, see what might work for you:
- Keep it simple- the food doesn’t have to be fancy or special. It’s establishing the habit of sitting around the table and enjoying the food you have prepared. It may not be the same meal every day, but the earlier in life that we can start the practice, the easier it will be to hold on to as the children grow older and become more involved.
- Get everyone involved- this can begin when we plan the meals, let everyone have a voice in the foods we prepare. Then let them help with the grocery shopping and putting food away. Finally when it’s time to cook, let everyone have a job. Yes, it may take more time than it would if you were doing it by yourself, but teaching them skills now will allow them to one day have a meal on the table when you come home. Teach them the basics of reading a recipe, kitchen safety with knives and equipment or the oven and cleaning up as you go. It’s all part of meal preparation that is a skill for life. There are 4-H cooking project that are really good at teaching some of the basics and now is the time to join 4-H…..if you have questions, call the office at 330-264-8722.
- Take your time—this is not only feeding your family nutritious food, it’s feeding their emotions, and shaping who they are for the future with conversation. Put away the phone, turn off the TV or games and just give at least 20 minutes of unrushed time for everyone to relax and enjoy time together. Younger children will learn table manners and older children can talk through the day’s challenges with conversations that reinforce your family’s values and priorities.
- Be creative, meals can be a picnic tailgate before a sporting event or a breakfast for dinner when there’s little time for preparation. The important thing is that you are spending time together to relax and enjoy one another’s company. Save serious conversations for another time. Keeping the mealtime pleasant, kids will eat better and look forward to the next time. Wondering what to fix for supper? That’s the topic for next week! Think Spring!!