With busy schedules, family meal time may be put on the back burner. Taking the time to sit down with loved ones is an important way to connect with one another on an emotional level, so why not choose to do this while eating a delicious meal?
Communicating effectively with your children can be made into a fun activity when the conversation is lively and engaging. This new year, try out some of these tips for a fun and relaxed experience around your dinner table!
Delicious meals that are more time consuming can become less stressful by preparing beforehand. Here are some tips on how to save time and effort on meals:
- Plan your weekly menu at the beginning of the week, and take one trip to the grocery store.
- Choose meals that have some of the same ingredients for multiple meals. This way you can buy in bulk, and prep all at once to save time.
- Place in portion sized containers, so when it comes time to cook meal prep is already done.
Use dinner time as an opportunity to learn, with your toddler or child explore new foods and vocabulary by introducing a new food and talking about it. Makes your conversations age appropriate to encourage participation. With toddlers, they may not be able to verbalize in great detail so making comments such as “yes, that ice cream is cold” will expand their knowledge and give them a chance to interact with you. For older children, probe them for details such as:
- What colors are on your plate?
- What is the most yummy or least yummy food on your plate?
- Are there other foods that taste similar?
Try including your child in prepping dinner by giving them small, obtainable activities that will keep them involved in the process. Use the family style serving method to allow your child independence with getting to choose what they would like to eat and how large a portion size. Some activity ideas include:
- Setting the table
- Turning off the TV or other electronics if they are on
- Pouring beverages for each person at the table
- Help clean up and wash/dry dishes
Last but not least, make meal time family time. Dedicate the time that you are sitting down together a time to unplug from technology. Let this be a time to get to know each other and fill your bellies with a nutritious meal!
For more information about meal-planning and nutrition tips, check out USDA My Plate.