Family Meals Around the Table

“Every time we put a plate in front of our children, that’s a teachable moment.”Sam Kass

The preparation and enjoying of a meal together is an invaluable learning opportunity. Here are a couple things that can be learned around a dinner table…

Learn about each other…

Joining for a meal in community is an opportunity to connect around something that unifies us all – food. For a family, it is unifying and fosters a sense of belonging. All members of the family have an opportunity to share and be a part of the conversation.

Learn about social skills…

Sitting around the dinner table is the perfect opportunity to model social skills for children. It doesn’t have to be time for instruction and criticism but simply a time when kids can watch and listen to the way people can carry on a conversation and interact with each other in a relaxed and respectful way.

Learn about life skills…

Buying and preparing food are essential life skills that kids can be involved with at a very early age. Whether they are tagging along on the grocery store visits, gathering ingredients for a recipe, or actually participating in the preparation, kids have a sense of ownership over the food they eat when they are involved in the process. As they grow older, they gain confidence as they realize that they are becoming self-sufficient with the skills they need to feed themselves, their families, and their friends.

Learn about food…

There are countless food options available to families in the United States. The decision making process of what to put in your body can be very complicated. Around the dinner table is the perfect time to talk to kids about how these decisions were being made.

Taste is always a factor (especially for kids) – discuss the tastes of the different foods on the plate and which ones they like more or less. Are there other similar foods your family could try? Is there another way to prepare the same food that may taste different? If there are new tastes the kids are not receptive to, remember that encouraging (not forcing or bribing) will keep them openminded about food choices and it often takes at least eight exposures for a kid to be familiar with a food.

Nutritional Value is the basis for many of our food choices. What does our body need that this food is providing? Why should we balance our fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein?

Availability is sometimes overlooked because we have the unique opportunity to have just about any food, from anywhere in the world, at any time during the year. The dinner table is the perfect place to talk about where food comes from. Kids are often surprised when they learn what the food looked like growing on the plant. If the country (or even the specific farm) that grew the food is known, the kids enjoy the geography game of figuring out how far the food traveled to get to their plate. They can make connections to the freshness of their food and they can begin to form an understanding about the amount of non-renewable resources used to get it to them. This can also lead to conversations about seasonality, which is particularly evident when shopping and preparing food from a farmer’s market.

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This week, I’ve been talking with the kids about the importance of gathering to enjoy food as well. We started our discussion by reading the book “Good Enough to Eat.” 20121113-142210.jpg

There is a great visual in the book of a family sitting around a table eating a healthy meal together. We then created our own drawings of our families sitting around a table in our home eating a healthy meal.

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20121113-142227.jpgI would love to see everyone’s families eating around the dinner table! I’ll be accepting photo submissions of family dinners through Friday, November 30th to post on our website in a slideshow. If you submit a photo, you’ll be entered to win a King of Pops popsicle – Can’t wait to see you pictures!

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