From the time they drag their little feet out the door until they lay their sleepy heads down at night, kids are on the move. Getting them to stop long enough to have a conversation may seem impossible, but you have a secret weapon for capturing their attention…mealtime!

The number one benefit of sitting down and eating as a family is the time it affords you to connect with one another– to have meaningful conversations that go beyond homework, chores and schedules. Plus, sharing a meal together brings a host of other health benefits.

  • A study done at the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse found that children who ate with their families 5 to 7 times per week did much better in school, reporting mostly A’s and a few B’s versus those who ate with their families 3 or fewer times per week.
  • The American College of Pediatrics says that eating 3 or more family meals at home per week reduces a child’s chances of being overweight by 12%.
  • A study at Stanford University found that children who ate with their families had decreased BMI’s and they tended to choose fruits and vegetables for snacks instead of junk food. They also found that children and adolescents who eat with their families three or more times per week have a 35% decreased chance of developing eating disorders.

Sharing family meals can also help with the developmental skills that a child learns as they grow up. Engaging your child in conversation helps develop language skills, increases their reading ability, and builds their conversation skills.

To get things rolling in your new family dinner routine, try asking simple questions such as, “What was the best part of your day today? Who is the funniest person in our family? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?”

Another great tool is to have each family member come up with interesting questions and write them on index cards. Combine all the cards, and each night select a question that everyone at the table answers!

Family dinners can extend beyond the actual meal. Having the kiddos help plan, shop and cook from time to time is a great way to bond while teaching them important life skills. Clean up is also important. They may complain, but in truth, responsibilities give children a sense of belonging.

Kids learn to love the mealtime ritual and start to count on it. In our house, each person talks about their favorite part of the day, their least favorite part of the day, and what they are most looking forward to. Now our normal dinner conversations start with, “Who’s going first?!”