There is absolutely no doubt that the rush to get dinner on the table at night can be difficult let alone being able to sit down as a family and eat at once. However, I want to show awareness of the importance of sitting as a family and eating together whether its toddlers to adults and how this benefits healthy food choices but also social interaction. Think back to when you were young, how did you eat your meals? I was brought up in a home where sitting at the big table together as a family of six was really important and it happened every night (apart from the odd movie night about once per month we would eat on the couch).
Today, eating together as a family has become more and more far from the norm and its quite scary. We now have devices such as the television, iPad and phones that effect social interaction and asking the simple questions like – How was your day? What did you get up to? This is such a positive time to reflect on a child’s day and interact socially. Research has shown allowing a child of any age to sit and reflect on their day has many benefits for their developing brain, mentally, physically and emotionally. Have you also noticed asking your child what they did today on the way home from day care, kindy or school and not getting much of an answer? For some children, they need to process what they got up to and tends to come out later on at dinner time or before bed. Children pick up on family behaviours and routines, you may even get asked how your day was in return!
Ever heard the saying ‘monkey see monkey do’? The truth is that children become like their parents and will copy lifestyle habits from an early age. It is so important to look after your body by feeding it good quality food and exercise regularly. Let them ask questions and explain healthy food and exercise choices, you’re never too young to learn! By sitting down as a family at meal time it is more likely going to be a wholesome nutritious meal compared to the convenience of take-away or an on to go quick option. Therefore generally more planning and time and thought goes into it. Another factor to consider is if a child (or adult ) is watching a screen while they are eating it is not ideal, as the brain is stimulated by the screen rather than being mindful of what they are actually eating and putting in their mouth. This takes away from simple acts of chewing and digestion of food.
Tips to help improve healthy eating habits:
1. Eating as a family whether it’s only two people or 10 is really important at least 4 times per week. This is not possible for everyone if dinner time in your household is 5pm and Mum or Dad aren’t home from work yet. Still sit down and eat a small serving of dinner with your children (you can always have some more later).
2. Make meal time fun, make it into a game.
3. Make meal time exciting, like setting the table or getting out special plates and bowls out.
4. Dinner time doesn’t have to take hours, even if it is 20 minutes of meal time together.
5. If you don’t want them to eat it, don’t buy it!
6. Be active as a family.
7. Don’t be afraid to be firm, it is ok to say NO if your child has already eaten two treats that day and wants another. You are not helping them by giving in!
Get the family together for dinner time a few times per week (if you don’t already) and enjoy the laughter and joy eating together as a family can bring!