Before I got married and had kids I had my ideas about meal time.
When it came to dinner time, kiddo’s would eat by themselves and Pi and I would sit down to a nice meal over a fine bottle of wine and recap out day. It’s hard to talk while one of the littles is trying to shove green beans up their nose, or mix their milk with their pasta, or experiment with how many times they can throw their bottle on the floor before mommy makes that funny sound while scrunching up her face.
I was determined that the kids would eat before the adults.
And then I actually had kids. And when Sweets got to the age where she could eat what we were eating, I actually wanted to have family dinner.
Family dinner is one of the most important activities of our day. It doesn’t happen every night, but more often than not, especially on weekends, we sit down and eat as a family.
Wait, let me rephrase. Sweets and Pi sit. I sit, then get up to get another napkin. Then sit. Then get up to get the purple straw, not the pink straw. Then sit. Then get up to get the big girl glass, not the baby glass. Then sit. Then get up to get the fork that fell on the floor. Then sit.
You get the picture.
And conversation goes like this:
Me: “Sweets, what did you do at school today?”
Me: “So Pi, how was YOUR day?”
Pi: “well, we went to…”
Sweets: “mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom- I have to tell you something- mom, mom, mom, mom, mom!”
Me: “What IS IT, Sweets?”
WE INTERRUPT THIS MEALTIME CONVERSATION TO BRING YOU THIS IMPORTANT MESSAGE!
Sweets: “um, um, I ate a carrot.”
Pi and I typically get in around a half sentence every 5 minutes.
But it is well worth it. Studies show (ha! always wanted to write that. And no, I don’t have a link to the “study” but I know they are out there because I heard it on the Today show) that having family dinner helps kids make healthier food choices and they eat more fruits and veggies.
I definitely see a difference in how Sweets eats when she eats before us and when she eats with us. When she eats by herself she gets out of her seat more, moves food around more on her plate, doesn’t eat as much, and will refuse more foods.
When she eats with us and sees everyone eating the same thing, she is more likely to try different foods. She remains in her seat longer, though that in no way indicates that there are not times where she is on the floor. She will eat more- often everything on her plate. Though if it’s green, there is a high chance it is not getting consumed.
Studies also show that having family dinners lessens a kids likelihood of engaging in activities such as drinking, smoking, doing drugs and having sex.
OH, SIGN ME UP!
Family dinner is more likely to lead to conversation. Yes, GASP! Your kids will talk to you. Or, if they are not talking to you at the moment for such parenting atrocities having been committed such as, let’s say, living, then they will at least be listening to you as you talk. They may be pretending they aren’t listening, but they’ll be listening.
Family dinner sounds so awesome, right?
But then there is the part about, oh, cooking it.
I love to cook. But with our schedule it is a bit crazy hectic and by the time we get home it’s feedthekidsbathethekidsreadbookstothekidsgetthekidstobed.
Planning and organizing is key. And to be honest, some weeks I am WAY ON and a cooking family meals rock star, and other weeks I am making quesadilla’s and eggs for the 4th day in a row.
Quick and tasty is what I need- forget recipes with 15 steps and ingredients you will only find in a specialty market across town.
Bottom line is you need to have a few “go to” sources. A few cookbooks, a cooking website, that will help you out in a pinch. There are also a lot of cookbooks that include steps for kids to complete in the cooking process and how to get the conversation going at the dinner table. I mean, right now we’re still trying to figure out what Noggin is saying and Sweets’ conversations most often revolve around toots and poop. But we’re getting there!
I’m all about sharing, so here are some of my favorite family dinner friendly resources! Click on the link or picture to take you to the product or website.
1. Great Food Fast and Fresh Flavor Fast:
These are 2 of my favorites because they have familiar ingredients, few steps, and there is a picture of each recipe. I really don’t like those big recipe books with no pictures- I like to know what the end result is going to look like!
2. The Family Dinner- Laurie David
Yes, the ex-wife of Larry David has written a wonderful book on family dinner. There are great kid friendly recipes as well as resources to get kids talking at the dinner table! Magic, I tell you!
3. Pretend Soup- by Mollie Katzen
This is “Sweets'” cookbook. The recipes are use pictures to sequence the steps as well as have the written recipe. It is great for kids because they can tell what they need to do without you telling them. Sweets LOVES the popover recipe- calls them break cupcakes. Love it. Anything that will get her cooking and enjoying the process of making healthy foods (okay, I’m not sure how healthy bread cupcakes are, but still).
4. Some favorite websites:
This Silly Girls Life has saved me on more than one occasion with last minute recipe ideas.
I can always count on Funny is Family every Thursday for her Crock Pot Thursday recipe.
Check them out when you are in a dinner jam!
Get yourself, and the kids, cooking!
Have a great crazy day!