Family mealtimes: Ideas for all seasonsIF we as parents can make time for our family, you can rest assured the children will take this lesson to heart for their own families in time to come.
Teach the children an important life skill - how to cook properly and without the short-cuts of canned food and the microwave. Show the kids the how-to of food preparation, following recipes and instructions, improvising to an innovative dish, the creative setting, and not forgetting, nutritional value. If a ‘new' dish is created by the family, get the family involved to name it and soon you will discover a whole new list of family recipes to hand down to generations!
Get everyone to participate in a mealtime - plan the menu, prepare the ingredients, cook the dishes, set the table to washing up. If time does not permit this to become a daily affair, try to have everyone involved in the process, at least during the weekends.
Commit everyone to eat together
This can be a daily affair or perhaps just three days a week. Make sure everyone appreciates and respects the importance of the family meal and use it as a platform for conversations between family members. Never use it as a session to reprimand or criticise but rather to find out more about each other. I find sharing about our childhood experiences with our children during mealtimes a good way to discuss family history and traditions. Often we will end up bursting with laughter having made new discoveries about the silly things we did when we were young and the kids would then have fun teasing and sharing their childhood blunders as well.
Ban non-food related items
Do not allow books, magazines, toys or television to become part of the dining table. You will notice that kids do not eat well with such distractions and of course, the opportunity for conversation would be completely lost.
Cultivating table manners
Table manners appear to be an etiquette that is being gradually lost amongst our young. Sometimes, I get to see people chewing their food noisily with no regard to the other people at the table. Use mealtimes to cultivate good table manners which include proper use of cutlery, on requesting servings instead of expecting to be served unasked, and starting of meals only when everyone is seated. No matter how quickly somebody finishes the meal, it is good practice for all to continue to sit around, carrying on with the conversation while waiting for the others to finish their meals. There really should be no rush to move away from the dining table.