Let’s discuss the importance of family dinners and celebrate the benefits of eating dinner together as a family! I will share with you some statistics to help get you motivated to make family dinners a priority. I will also share some wonderful tips from Naomi Davis, the popular writer, entrepreneur and creator of “Love Taza,” on how to get the most out of dinner time with kids. There are even some ideas for family dinner recipes at the end of this post. It is a great time to take the Family Dinners Challenge and commit to making family dinners part of your family routine!
Benefits Of Eating Dinner Together As A Family
Eating as family is so much more than just eating- it is time for family bonding. The benefits of family time are many and a family dinner is the perfect time to come together on a consistent basis. Shared family meals means you talk to each other, you look each other in the eye, and hopefully, you are thankful together for the shared meal and shared time. Shared family dinner time is something that becomes easy the more you do it. I know that it seems like chess club, flag football practice, and piano lessons can sometimes get in the way but when you remember the importance of family dinner, it will be easier to make it happen.
If you put away distractions and take time to be fully present during your family dinner time, you will notice a huge difference. It is about creating a family tradition of coming together daily for a positive experience. It does not technically have to be family dinner that is the shared meal but that is what works best for most families. If you have an atypical work schedule, you may try to make it family breakfast. It is the routine that matters so you can all look forward to sharing some time together and reconnecting over a meal.
Importance Of Family Dinner Statistics
Sure they are nice but are family dinners important? Yes! Shared family dinners show a high correlation to children that eat more fruits and veggies, are more willing to try new foods, and are less likely to be overweight. But that is not all, studies have shown that kids who eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, or to develop an eating disorder, according to health.com. Wow. Are these correlations making you think you could probably fit in a shared family meal a few more nights a week? There are even more reasons to share a meal together as a family- doing so at least five times a week drastically lowers a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs (CASA Report). School performance tends to go up and divorce rates tend to be lower in families that eat together.
Anne Fishel, executive director of the Family Dinner Project, shared on the Harvard Graduate School of Education Podcast that “80% of teenagers say that family dinner is the time of the day they’re most likely to talk to their parents.” Staying in the know about what your teens are up to? Priceless! She also adds, “Regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression, and anxiety, and substance abuse, and eating disorders, and tobacco use, and early teenage pregnancy, and higher rates of resilience and higher self esteem.” Again, wow.
As you can see, the importance of family dinners really can not be overlooked!
Fun Ideas For Family Dinner Time
I am so happy to have Naomi Davis, who has been named a Forbes Top 10 Parenting Influencer, share with us some fabulous ideas for dinner time and how to get the most out of it. She is also the author of the brand new book A Coat of Yellow Paint: Moving Through the Noise to Love the Life You Live (April 6, 2021, Harper Horizon). In the book, Naomi shares a collection of intimate and vulnerable essays that explore being a wife, raising five children, and living an authentic life, in her trademark candid style. So without further ado, the rest of this section on fun ideas for family dinner is by Naomi Davis.
Five Ways I’ve Gotten More Out Of Meal Time With My Kids
by Naomi Davis
There’s an entire chapter in my new book, A Coat of Yellow Paint, all about how loud and messy our dinner table can be. As a mother to little ones, you might read that sentence and think, I already have a loud and messy dinner table in my own home, I don’t know if I’m interested in reading about another. And I feel you. One loud and messy dinner table is plenty!
But what I explore in this particular essay in my book, is the magic often found at the dinner table, amidst the smeared marinara sauce and noodles splashed across the floor— when we use this dedicated meal time to grow our family bond and interact in meaningful ways. After all, despite the days feeling long, this chapter of life is incredibly short. And utilizing our minutes together around a dining table, where there are limited outside distractions, just might make the loud dinner table your favorite dinner table! (Most days.)
I’d love to share with you a couple of ideas and prompts my husband and I have found especially helpful when it comes to engaging our kids around the table.
First, we give everyone a designated job around meal time. It might mean setting napkins on each plate or helping Papa mix the pasta in the kitchen. But as each family member has a specific task, we feel a little more united in our efforts before the meal even begins! And having that spirit of unity as we go into what can often feel like a battle (I mean, pleeeeeaaaase don’t throw your broccoli and keep touching your brother with your spoon!), it helps!
Dinner Conversation Starters
Second, we have found conversation starters with fun prompts the key to making our loud dinner table one where everyone loves to be. The table grows still as we explore feelings and share stories based on different categories: If you had a superpower for a day, what would it be? What is the greatest invention? Pretend you are popcorn popping! We also learn some of the most endearing facts about our kids and each other as we build upon each answer. A great place to start is with an open-ended question around a topic a family member is interested in. Bringing their imaginations into the conversation only sets you up for success and some good laughs, too.
Third, a game at mealtime can keep everyone in their seats successfully and possibly even linger as the meal comes to an end! It doesn’t need to be a physical game or include tangible objects, but sharing riddles (or making up your own!), playing word games like Telephone or the Yes or No game (can you make it through the meal without saying yes or no?!), usually ends in laughter. Sometimes designating someone in the family to hide a particular utensil as the meal progresses without anyone noticing is also so much fun!
Family Dinner Questions
Fourth, have everyone come to the table with a question the family can explore together. While we usually have a “no phones at the table” rule in an attempt to keep tech away from our mealtimes, we make an exception every once in a while for a special topic like “why are panda bears black and white” or “how many types of lizards are there?” These kinds of questions lead to incredible discussions where we all take something away and while doing so, the chaos is kept to a minimum!
And fifth, taking turns sharing something we love about another family member is one of my favorite dinner table prompts. We used to reserve this for birthdays, but honestly, nothing bad ever comes from sharing openly what you love about someone you love, and I think it should happen more often than every 365 days. If I can help facilitate a little bit of a bond between my children by way of kind words and affirmations shared every single day around our table, I think we might be building something special. I encourage families everywhere to share something they love about another family member at every meal.
While I certainly hope these suggestions or ideas are helpful during the next loud dinner table experience when you aren’t sure you can reign in the madness that has commenced, I also hope you know you aren’t alone in the dinner table mayhem (coming to you from my own chaotic dinner table where the madness is often maddening!). And like me, I hope you can find ways to celebrate this short chapter of life that messy and loud and totally out of control most days. Because someday those tiny bodies will have extra curriculars and friends and outside activities that will inevitably pull them away from the loud dinner table. And while each season is beautiful in its own right, I have a feeling we might long for this one. And so while we have it here before us, may we take full advantage of its magic, embrace the mess and the loudness, and enjoy making the memories around our very loud dinner tables.
I hope you enjoyed Naomi Davis’ tips for engaging kids around the dinner table!
Family Dinner Recipe Ideas
There are no rules around what you eat at family dinners! Of course, healthy meals are best in my opinion but the shared family time is what matters most. I am going to put links to a few recipes under various categories just to get you started in case you are stuck there!
Chicken Family Dinner Recipes
Beef Family Dinner Recipes
Vegetarian Family Dinner Recipes
Ready Made Family Dinner Options
Order Takeout via DoorDash
Let’s Start Eating Dinner With Family- Take The Family Dinners Challenge
Now that you know the importance of family dinner, don’t you just want to let others know too? The Family Dinners Challenge is about uniting to remind the world to have more family dinners! It is about showing that connecting over a shared meal can bring more love, compassion, and wellness into our communities! Let’s create a movement that aims to bring people together by challenging families nationwide to enjoy family dinner time. How? By example! Just share this post (or a photo of eating dinner together as a family) on social media with the hashtag #FamilyDinnerChallenge.
Did you already know the importance of family dinner? Do you think you will try to eating dinner together as a family more often?