There is no "right" way to enjoy a meal
as a family. Time spent together can be as structured
or laid back as your family dynamic allows. Below are
some general suggestions:
* Turn off the TV and turn on some
music. Dinner is a great time to give a new music
style a try. Let each family member choose the type of
music for a different night.
* Make dinner, or
even breakfast, extra special by eating by candlelight.
* Let your child
(or children) plan the menu for at least one night each
month. Make it extra educational by having them
research new recipes, find out the nutritional content and
figure the cost of the meal.
* Have a theme
night once a month. serve foods from a different
country or region.
* Let everyone
talk about their day. Try to keep the conversation
positive; if possible, don't use dinner time to
discuss discipline issues.
* If possible,
don't answer the phone during meal times.
* Do something
different and take the meal away from the table. Have
a picnic in the backyard. Or if the weather is bad,
set up a picnic on the living room floor.
* Share stories
passed down in the family. What child can resist
stories of Mom and Dad as children!
* Use this time
to teach manners but don't be so strict that mealtime
becomes a negative experience.
* No one is
talking? Think of a fun question to have everyone
answer, or start a short story round (start the story and
let each person add two sentences onto it).
* Use the time
together to plan some fun family activities. Or plan
your next family vacation.
* On occasion,
dress up and have a fancy meal. Set up the table as a
fancy restaurant. Encourage the children to practice
their best manners.
* Get the kids
involved with the whole process; meal planning, coupon
clipping and sorting, setting the table, and meal
* Don't try
too hard! Let the conversation flow naturally and
enjoy the time with your family!
Do you have fussy eaters? Let
them help make dinner. Kids are often more apt to eat
something that they have helped make. Even young
children can help tear lettuce for salad or take a turn
Offer food varieties and
encourage your child to try new foods. Don't make it a
battle. Children often require numerous exposures to a
food before they want to try it.
Plan as many meals as possible
in advance. This will reduce stress at mealtime and
usually encourage more healthy meals.
Try to eat at the same time each
day. Children do well with the stability of
predictable meal times.