This week (Sept. 16-22) is National Eat Dinner Together week. This is an event that was started in 1996 and although I am not a huge fan of the institution that stared it (National Pork Producers) I think it is a valuable thing to remember…eating together as a family is important. This seems like this should be an easy thing but that is not always the case. When I was living in Arizona we had a fairly large kitchen but the only open area for a table was pretty small. My youngest son’s highchair had to be put across the room and yes (ducking head) many times I let the other kids eat in front of the TV. Usually only one or two meals a week were actually eaten together. This time is so important to help nurture our bond as a family.
But I am happy to say that this has changed since moving into our new house. I have room for a large kitchen table AND we have a formal dining table/room too. My youngest son has moved into a restaurant syle highchair that pulls right up to the table. My parents found it for him at a garage sale! So now we have no excuse not to eat every dinner time meal together. The weekend breakfast meals are usually eaten together too. It is great! We talk, we laugh, we share stories, and we delight in each other’s company.
Of course some nights require extra planning…like Friday nights when my eldest son and I have our weekly “date”. I have to make sure dinner is put together early so that we can leave AND since I will be gone I have to make sure my other kids have everything they need. I think that if I were to do more advanced meal plans that would help too. Some good resources for that are Meal Planning Central (even has vegetarian menus) and Dine without Whine.
Here are just some of the tips that I think are helpful to finding that family meal time togetherness:
* Don’t make it too elaborate. Simple meals that are easy to prepare are fine.
* Give crabby kids a snack. I make a little snack to give them before dinner so I don’t have crying, grumpy kids on my hands. ;)
* Give kids a task…have them set the table, count the tableware, lay out the napkins, take drink orders, etc.
* Have some conversation starters ready. For instance have everyone finish a sentence like…Something that makes me REALLY happy is….
* Don’t nag about how much food they are NOT eating. If they didn’t eat enough you can always give them a snack later. AND I know it sounds silly but if you are familiar with the TV show Yo! Gabba Gabba…you can sing the “There’s a Party in My Tummy” song. My kids like this tactic. ;)
* Mix it up. Once a week go outdoors and have a picnic. If the weather is bad try having a picnic on the living room floor.