Having a family dinner together at night is important for bonding as a family and child development. Family dinner conversations allow children an opportunity to practice much-needed social and communication skills. Studies actually show that kids who regularly have family meals perform better academically. 

As great as family meals can be, they can also present challenges. Children may be picky eaters or might be reluctant to engage in conversations. Through games and family traditions, parents can encourage their children to participate and make mealtimes a positive experience for everyone.

A problem that can arise with picky eaters is that they will not even look at their food. Parents can face this head-on by helping children engage with mealtime in a fun way. Try reading books that incorporate new foods and then prepare the new food as a snack. 

Make mealtime into a science experiment. Encourage children to pretend they are scientists while examining their food. This gives them a chance to make and record observations, such as what color the food is, its texture, and its flavor. 

Another way to make unfamiliar food more engaging and inviting is to talk to children about its origins or tell a family story about it. Children can also try to guess the dish using senses other than sight. 

Finally, allowing children to help plan a menu and help prepare meals can boost self-confidence and encourage even the pickiest eaters to try the foods they’ve helped create.  

The other challenge parents face: getting their children to talk. Conversation games can be great ways to break the ice and learn more about each other. This can be as simple as having each person say what they are grateful for that day, or conversations could involve more planning. For example, family members could take turns writing down questions to be drawn from a jar at dinner to spark discussion.

While it is good to focus on the meal, an occasional board game night to accompany the food can be fun for children. Some games are less intrusive. For example, each person could make up trivia questions. Children could participate in creating a family story or draw on paper that covers the table.

The key is to be responsive to what kids like and create an atmosphere that they look forward to being a part of each night at the dinner table. Family meals can create stronger families and healthier kids and can make for a lifetime of memories.

Article originally published on https://dredwardthalheimer.co/