I know it may not seem to be a big deal to sit down with your kids to eat dinner but I believe it has far reaching affects. If started early (at 6 months when many babies start solids) it can be a joy to have dinner together. Because we have twins we sat our babies in highchairs, but having a meal as a family can mean sitting baby on your lap while you talk to your significant other over a meal. When the weekend comes, and our whole family is available to eat together, we try to shut off the laptop, turn off the TV and take a bit to eat together. We talk about what we are going to do that day, or if it’s dinner, how the day went. Even at 2 years old, I ask my twins to “tell Daddy what we did today!” They have yet to be able to recite their most exciting moments, so for the most part, I then go through what I believe might have been the highlights of their day. It’s great to see their eyes light up remembering the fun they had at a playdate, at a parks and recreation class, or playing in the backyard.
So, while i’m encouraging them to eat dinner, and not put their spoon, fork or cup on the ground, we have a pretty nice dinner. Why is this important? By sitting down for meals several times a day we are teaching our children to be civilized. We are teaching them that there are times to run and play and there are times when we need to sit nicely and eat the food that has been given to us. We model how we want our kids to act. We don’t throw our forks on the floor or stare at the TV and ignore each other. We talk nicely, review our day, our problems or exciting events. When my son won’t eat his green beans, I make sure he sees me eating mine. Often times I then take one from his tray, bite the end with my front teeth, and hold it there in his reach. He most often takes it, eats it and smiles.
By teaching our children that there are times to sit and “behave” (which by no means happens with every meal – they are toddlers after all) they are much more willing to be civilized in other situations that call for being “still”. Our parks and recreation classes are both structured and unstructured. The kids are amazingly good at joining in the structured activities appropriately and I believe eating as a family has something to do with that.
Don’t get me wrong. Eating meals together regularly is not a cure all for the “hyperactive” child. I’m just saying…. I have a friend with a very active boy. Our two families go out to dinner regularly and he does just as amazingly as our children do with sitting in his highchair and eating the meal. If you are afraid to take your kids out to eat, try treating home like a restaurant for a while. Sit down together, eat, and leave the table together. I promise it will improve your family dynamic.
For a great article “The Magic of the Family Meal”, published by TIME magazine, click HERE. To read more about introducing baby to solid foods and eating with baby click HERE.
Janice is a wife, mother of twins, and a registered nurse. Keep up with her at Mommawords.com