Most families are starved for time to spend together, and dinner may be the only time of the day to reconnect. As a mother of three children (ages 14, 12, and 7), I know firsthand that it can be difficult to get the family to all sit down, let alone share a meal that everyone enjoys.
Yet, the sense of community and family connection felt around the dinner table when we share a meal is so full of love that it can be overwhelming to think about. Sure, there’s the occasional fight between siblings or disagreement about some topic, but for the most part dinner in our home is spent sharing stories, wins, and losses from each person’s day, and lots and lots of laughter—especially jokes.
Preparing and sharing a meal with your family is a great way for everyone to connect, practice mindfulness, show appreciation, and develop a sense of who you are as a family. The following are four simple practices you can put in place at dinnertime to help bring your family together around the table.
1. Plan the Menu Together
Ask for input from each member of your family when creating your meal plan. For example, I create a new menu each week and ask the kids and my husband what they would like to eat and cook. This guarantees that everyone will have something on the menu that they like and even enjoy preparing.
2. Create Colorful Meals
I learned during my Ayurveda certification that you should always use the colors of the rainbow as your guide when preparing a meal. My kids especially love this technique because of all the vibrant colors on their plate. Kids are much more willing to try a new food if it’s bright in color. Think about the beautiful colors in peppers—orange, yellow, green, red, and even purple.
Try plating a spread of a variety of sliced, raw peppers as an appetizer and serve plain or with hummus. Kids absolutely love trying all the different varieties.
3. Encourage Your Family Help Out in the Kitchen
When I start cooking dinner, I always ask at least one of the kids if they want to help chop the vegetables, mash some avocados, or help me with anything else that is needed for prep work. Besides it being fun just to cut and mash and chop—the real reason I think they love to help is because they feel really proud to help contribute to the meal.
Often when you set the table and start plating dinner, you can expect to hear at least one of the kids say, “I made this or that … do you like it?” It gives them a sense of accomplishment and teaches them at a very early age the importance of eating food from the earth and preparing it in a loving and kind way.
4. Eat Together Without Distractions
Being mindful is an important practice, and what better time to practice this then when you’re enjoying a meal together?
One rule that has kept our family from being distracted at dinner is that we turn off all devices, or at very least put them away. This is a great rule to start when your kids are young so that by the time they’re all teenagers, they know that it’s “devices off” at dinner. This technique also teaches them the importance of limiting screen time and the Ayurvedic golden rule of not distracting yourself while eating.
There may be some days when no one feels like cooking a meal; in which case, we end up ordering something and staying in to watch a movie, or catch up on laundry or homework. And that’s okay. Those days just make us appreciate the home cooked meals even more.
What makes me feel connected to my family is the time we spend together doing little, everyday things—and time spent sharing a meal together is right at the top of my list.
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