Dinner's more than food: 30 minutes to have a greater connection with your kids

Kinderling News & Features

"Manners, cooperation, communication, self-control, values. Following directions. Sitting still. Taking turns." 

Believe it or not, these are all benefits of dinner time as a family.

It’s a quote from Doris Christopher, the founder of American cookery chain, The Pampered Chef, who says you just need 30 minutes to make dinner time an important family ritual. 

It’s a battleground

Yes, it might feel like a battleground. We have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, so I totally get that. 

For many years I’d read articles just like this, about how lovely dinner was for family life, and mourn how it simply didn’t work at our place. 

Till now, the three year age difference between our boys meant we couldn't pin down a good time for everyone to eat together. And once they both started daycare, I found they weren’t hungry and too restless to stomach a conventional dinner anyway. So yay for sandwiches, fruit and carrot sticks or fish fingers, as approved by Kinderling own’s Mothercraft nurse, Chris Minogue

But the truth is, dinner doesn’t really 'work' as a family until you’re ready to commit. 

Yep, dinner is dirty work

Most nights there’s more food on the floor than in mouths. Tempers are fraying after a long day. And then you have to clean up afterwards. Gawd, that’s enough of the bad stuff!  

But after almost two years of eating around the kitchen in two different seatings (adults and kids), we’ve found space for dinner at the table again.

And just like Doris lists above, there are actually plenty of great things about that.

We talk more

My eldest son has started telling me about how all things with seeds are fruits, and all things without are vegetables. And I have become the cliché parent asking about everyone's day. Sometimes it works. Other times, people are being told to stop sitting on the table. Swings and roundabouts!

We eat different things

It's also easier to see what each child is eating when you all eat together, especially how much food is being eaten. I also find dinner a good time to introduce a random new vegetable, fruit or food group.

Hello, (um, very basic) etiquette lesson

I don’t want to admit how much food my kids ate without a fork before we started having dinner together at the table again. The ritual gives a context for these conversations, so we can practise when we're eating out!

Setting the table is a thing again

I actually love setting the table. It was always a job I had at my own parents' place, and I notice that my older son jumps at the task. Okay, maybe not jumps - but he does it.

It's a legitimate family ritual

I’m a ritual junkie, and this is a nice one. Routine has always been a priority for me and as our kids get older and the baby routine fades down, dinner becomes the signal of the day coming to an end.

We laugh!

Sometimes at each other, often at something silly our two-year-old does. It’s often fleeting, but that’s okay too - it makes me smile later on, when everyone is asleep. 

And that is what I call a success!