Guest post by Simon Barnett:
The importance of food to families
We’ve all heard the sad news that Americans are not eating family dinners together. Some families are busy with organized activities around mealtime.
Some parents work late. Some families don’t place enough importance on sitting down together, and instead allow family members to eat whenever they are hungry.
Research shows that all family members benefit from eating together. There are several reasons this is true.
Mealtime is the perfect time to teach your children technical skills and manners. Plus, at the table, you can make sure that your values are made apparent to them by discussing what is important to you.
During mealtime, you can make sure that your children say please and thank you. You can also make sure they learn valuable manners such as complimenting the cook and how to avoid unpleasant topics at the table (such as bathroom matters). And, you can emphasize hygiene by insisting they wash hands and keep their faces clean during the meal.
You can bring up topics that connect to your most treasured values, like how someone helped another family member or neighbor; your admiration for people who help others through charity, or for people who have accomplished their goals.
As for technical skills, at mealtime you will have the opportunity to teach children how to carry dishes without breakage, or how to pour; for older children, you might teach cooking skills or how to wash dishes.
When families eat together, they can be united in their effort to eat better. Parents can keep better track of what their child is eating or drinking. They can discuss nutrition with their children. Parents will most likely want to set a good example for the children, so their nutrition can benefit too.
A Better Vocabulary
Children who eat with their parents, rather than alone or just among kids, hear a more varied vocabulary. No need to quiz your children on big words; exposure alone will help them begin to expand their vocabulary.
Gathered around the table, family members will talk about what is going on in their lives. That’s because they feel relaxed and they have the time and opportunity to do so. You might learn about your child’s concerns about classmates, or hear more in-depth about a school project.
Children love to hear parents reminisce about when they, the children, were younger. Mealtime gives you the opportunity to do this. Children also like to hear reminisces about other family members. You might share stories about grandparents that you’ve never found time to tell in another context.
Just being together has its own power and magic. Give your family the chance to just be, with no rushing to the next activity. The feeling of being more settled and bonded comes naturally from the experience.
Simon Barnett enjoys food, cooking and being outdoors. He encourages his children to take a keen interest in food and enjoys sharing meals in the garden. He also writes about picnic benches and other garden tables than can create a comfortable outdoor eating environment.