By Ilene Meister, M.S.
Director of Early Childhood Services
Jewish Community Center
As family members become busier and busier, a very important practice is being enjoyed less and less: the family meal. Many early learning educators and family and dietary counselors are seeing the effects of this missing practice and are encouraging families to reconnect around the table. There are so many positive outcomes when families eat together. Consider the following benefits.
1. Healthier meals are eaten and healthier habits are established.
2. Interacting at the table slows down eating and contributes to lower obesity rates and other eating disorders.
3. Conversing, learning to talk, listening and taking turns build important social skills and increases one’s vocabulary.
4. School success starts with mealtime conversations. As a result, more words are learned which positively affects reading. Better reading skills result in higher grades.
5. Having a place at the table gives one a sense of belonging, which creates greater confidence, higher self-esteem, better emotional health and fewer behavioral problems. Risky behaviors and eating disorders are minimized.
6. Shared mealtime responsibilities including planning, shopping, prepping, and cleaning-up (it’s not just mom’s job) build a sense of ownership. Participation in meal planning and preparation also encourages children to feel that they are a part of the process of mealtime.
7. Eating meals together saves time, money and energy.
8. Communication is improved between parents and children.
9. Everyone has the opportunity to enjoy mealtimes and each other’s company and build new, or reinforce established, family traditions.
10. Allowing children to serve themselves encourages them to eat a variety of foods.
By eating together each and everyday, we can build memories, and at the same time create stability in our children’s lives and celebrate our time together.