Sitting down to a daily meal with your family is great for more reasons than satisfying hunger pains. This simple routine has benefits for the brain, the body, and the spirit. Mealtime is the most reliable way for families to connect and strengthen interpersonal bonds.
For young children, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to. Researchers have found that young children learn 1,000 rare words at the dinner table, compared to only 143 from parents reading storybooks aloud. Larger vocabulary skills translate into reading earlier and more easily.
For school-aged children, daily mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports, or doing art.
Other research findings reported a consistent relationship between family dinner frequency and teen academic performance.
Food for the Body
Children who have regular family dinners eat more fruits, vegetables, vitamins, micronutrients, and consume fewer fried foods and soft drinks. Young adults who ate regular family meals as teens are less likely to be obese and are more likely to eat healthily in adulthood.
Several studies link daily family dinners with lowering many high-risk teenage behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence, eating disorders, and sexual activity. Depression and suicidal tendencies also lower when family dinnertime is a routine. Surprisingly, family dinners are a more powerful deterrent against high-risk teen behaviors than church attendance or good grades.
In a recent survey, teens were asked when they were most likely to talk with their parents. Dinner was the leading answer. Kids who eat a meal with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. Dinner may be the catalyst for helping a parent and child share positive experiences, a home cooked meal, a joke, a story, or the highs and lows of the day. These precious interchanges can strengthen family bonds, feed the soul, and increase intelligence.
Fishel, A. (2015). The most important thing you can do with your kids? Eat dinner with them. The Washington Post.®
Renee Hawkes is the 2016 Utah Mother of the Year® and the Utah Mothers Association 3rd Vice President. She is a mother and kindergarten teacher and resides in Logan, Utah