In a perfect world, dinner time is family time. Everyone comes to the table with a rumbling stomach, eager to talk about their days over the delicious meal you prepared. The kids thank you for being the super hero you are, and they can hardly wait to do it again tomorrow.
Except life isn’t perfect and we know this.
The reality is schedules are crazy, home life is hectic, and you’re just trying to make sure everyone gets fed!
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get your family around the table for dinner, at least sometimes. It just takes a good game plan to get everyone to buy in.
Here are 5 ways I get family dinner to happen more often than not:
1. Prioritize Family Meal Time
The research is plentiful – meaningful, quality meal time with family is super important to kids. The focused time we spend at the table is the foundation of our daily time together. The good news is that quality is better than quantity, so even if family dinner time is just a few days a week, your family will come to value that time together!
2. Involve Your Kids at the Grocery Store
My son loves sweets. His sweet tooth is unrivaled in our family, and he’s always reaching for foods loaded with sugar. So I let him, sort of. I give him specific guidelines for buying foods with sugar. Treats with 25,768 grams of sugar per serving? Keep hunting, buddy.
The grocery store is a great place to teach our children how to relate to food as it pertains to our budget, time and nutrition. By teaching my son the daily limits of sugar, I can task him with finding appropriate foods at the grocery store. Giving him that responsibility empowers him and makes him feel more responsible for what the family eats.
3. Know What Your Family Actually Likes
Because of my bicultural, Latino upbringing, my kids experience a wide variety of flavors. Anything from burgers and homemade pizza to pollo con mojo and traditional Cuban sandwiches makes the list. By identifying the core flavors that make up the foundation of our food culture – from spices to cuts of meat - I was able to quickly create weeknight meals that we love to eat and that reinforce our cultural heritage. The result? My kids care about what’s being served and want to come to the table for dinner.
4. Allow for Creativity and Input From All Family Members
My kids are young and love our weekly Panini Night. I lay out various sandwich meats and spreads, and fresh and pickled veggies, and let them create their own dinners. With virtually no rules other than eating what you make, the kids love being a part of the process. You can do this with taco or pizza night, too!
5. Tell Stories That Would Otherwise be Forgotten
Are there people you’ve loved that your kids didn’t get to meet? My kids never knew my father-in-law and my grandfather, but they can know their stories. Dinner time is a great opportunity to pass down the oral history of your family. These stories are a good way to dig just a little deeper at dinner.
Family dinner isn’t just about the food we put on the table, it’s about the experience! The relationship our families have with food is real and presents daily opportunities to connect with each other. Might as well make the most of it!