while our family attempts to do breakfast together each morning during the week, there is something special about our weekend mornings when things don’t feel as rushed and we can really take our time cooking and sitting at the breakfast table eating together having some nice long chats in our pajamas. we also skip the steel cut oats or eggs that we often eat during the week and opt for pancakes or french toast or waffles, which is just way more fun in my opinion. ;)
mealtime with my family has taught me so much over the years. whether it’s breakfast or dinner, making that time really count as we sit and share a meal has created a more meaningful bond between all of us. and it doesn’t just start when we sit down to eat, it begins during the cooking or baking, the setting of the table and gathering in the kitchen however long it may take before time to eat. it also (hopefully) carries on during the clearing of the table, during the time we do the dishes together and do that final kitchen sweep, too (although truth be told we are still working on finding positive and motivating ways to keep our helpers IN the kitchen after the meal ends to help out. a few of the helpful methods we’ve been practicing are shared below…)
i read somewhere once that the family table should never be a place where we criticize one another or talk about frustrating or difficult things going on in our childrens’ lives. instead, that we should try to make it a place where they can and will associate positive feelings of themselves as well as their family as they grow over the years. i really liked this idea and it’s something we’ve tried to incorporate. as we eat breakfast, we might discuss our plans for the day, do our spiritual scripture study and discuss our dreams from the evening before (my kids often have such crazy wild dreams! or we can just make something up). over dinner, i like the idea of sharing a high or low from the day as we eat, and allow our kids to decide if they do want to share something that hurt or frustrated them from the day, but not have it be a place where we ever lead in with something more negative or challenging. it’s amazing though, because we still tend to discuss or chat about an array of topics, a lot of which is led by questions or comments made my our kiddos.
a few other things that have helped everyone enjoy our kitchen time:
- having the kids participate in creating the meal (rather than only setting the table). this children’s safety knife set is something all three of our older kids use daily to chop fruit and vegetables and they do it like pros now!
- other fun ways to bring them into the kitchen before the meal begins can be something as simple as getting a kids stool so they can be tall enough to engage and help with whatever you’re doing at the counter.
- and a child’s apron with their name on it is another way to make their “big helper” status feel rather official. ;) i know it always feels messier and like it takes longer having kids help, but in actuality, it doesn’t anymore in our home because the kids know how to prep things efficiently now and all the practice has paid off! they know which cupboards home which things, as well as where to find what they need in the fridge. they have learned what goes into what, and how to chop and sauté, too! we still have accidents and messes and days where no one wants to do anything, but overall, i’m seeing the pay off here and i’m pleased with it.
- giving everyone a specific job (especially during kitchen clean up after the meal ends!) i know it can be overwhelming for everyone when you just see a big mess after you’re full and feeling tired, so if they can hone in on one specific task, like clearing all the utensils or rinsing all the plates, or just sweeping the floor….it will help them stay focused and do the job well. when everyone is doing one thing well, it makes the time fly by and everyone feels productive and valuable. sometimes if i’m like, “come on, help clean the table!…” it feels like we are all just kind of wandering around the kitchen picking up randomly but still not as focused as we could be since we don’t really have a clear path to the finish line.
- music can make prepping a meal or cleaning up afterwards feel like a party! currently very into our 80s playlist over here and loving it! we just pull music from our phone’s playlists and use a bluetooth speaker to bring the sound out!
- having our table be a no phone/ipad/toys zone means we don’t have distractions when we sit down to eat and helps all of us feel a little more present. my kids remind me of this often if i forget and whip out my phone to check something or record something, “no phones at the table, mama!” you got me! i’m trying to do better.
- if the table ever feels too quiet (ha, not often over here at the moment, BUT!), we have found prompts from games like poobah can be so much fun and get everyone involved!
how do you get the most out of mealtime with your families?
video in collaboration with ashley lauren.