Between hosting a toddler playdate, dropping an older child off at a ballet lesson, and catching up on some work, many moms have little time to put dinner on the table — let alone sit down with their kids while they eat.
But the benefits of gathering for a meal together go beyond knowing whether your child ate her broccoli or snuck it to the dog. Regular family meals have been linked to a lower rate of obesity. Family mealtimes can also be a boon for child development, since your dinnertime conversation may boost your 3-year-old’s vocabulary and social skills.
Ready to chat and chew? Keep this parenting advice front and center to get the most out of your mealtimes.
Make family meals a regular event. Don’t stress if you can’t sit down for every meal together. Aim to eat as a family three to four times a week (you could even put the dates on a calendar to ensure that the whole family remembers).
Leave technology off the table. The television, cell phones, laptops, and even the radio can be a distraction and take away from the time you have together at the dinner table. Turn off technology (parents, too!) until the meal is over.
Engage your child. It’s easy to get lost in your lasagna and forget to talk. Make an effort to ask your tot questions about his day at preschool or what he did at the park. The more you talk, the more you’ll help build language and other child development skills. Feel free to use words he may not know yet (“Do you like the way this eggplant tastes?”), as the dinner table is the perfect place to explain what things mean. Keep the conversation flowing by listening intently to your child and asking follow-up questions, as well as sharing information about your day, too.
Your regular family dinners will in time become a wonderful tradition that continues as your child gets older. Bon appétit!