Family Dinner: Time to make travel memories

Family Dinner Is One Way To Make Travel Memories

When we think of how to keep the kids busy and happily occupied we often reach for electronics – IPad, IPod, DS….etc. the never ending list of acronyms that keep kiddos silent and zombie like. Don’t feel guilty! We all have those electronic devices and happily use them.

BUT

You knew there was a but coming, didn’t you? Electronics are wonderful for long trips – planes, trains, automobiles, where everyone needs to be quiet and occupied, but not the family dinner table?

No electronics at the dinner table. Why?

Family Dinner is bonding time.

Family Dinner time - Turkey

The research is firm that eating dinner with your kids adds LOTS of benefits to their lives. When you eat with the kids you talk to them. Tell them about your day and ask them about theirs. Are your kids too young to say much about their day? Ask about the flowers on the table or the food on their plate. Ask their opinion about a movie you saw or their favorite tv character. Get them talking and look into their eyes. See that sparkle? Kids love to be listened to.

Do you think it doesn’t matter when kids talk about something ‘silly’. You couldn’t be more wrong. You need to listen now to the ‘silly ‘stuff so one day they’ll tell you the ‘big’ stuff. Why?

Because it was ALL big stuff.

According to Forbes,

All of us want to be listened to, all of us want to really be heard. When someone senses you are really listening to what they have to say amazing things can happen. “

From The Importance of Listening to Kids come these lovely words,

“The single most important thing is to take time to LISTEN to your children—as fellow human beings, not just as your charges or pet projects. There’s a wise little human soul in there, ageless in heart even while young in time.”

What is gained from eating with your kids; talking and listening to them? The list is long!

1. Family dinner time increases the good stuff.

Kids who eat regularly with their families have higher self esteem and grade point averages!  Eating together as a family increases vocabulary even better than reading does! Children also eat healthier by watching you make healthy choices.

2. Family dinner time decreases the bad stuff.

Kids who eat regularly with their families have lower rates of obesity and eating disorders. Family time at the dinner table is important.

Now it’s time to add our ‘but’.

BUT….we like to eat dinner in front of the television.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless you are talking about said show – turn off the boob tube! Record it and watch it later. Talk to each other! Research shows that the number of words spoken to a child really matters. Between birth and 3 years of age you lay down the foundations for academic success in later life. Read the fascinating research here on the 35 million word gap.

Kids realize they are free to talk and really be heard at the dinner table. Take time to discuss your day and theirs – good and bad. Nothing is off limits at the table.

But…my husband doesn’t get home till very late.

I hear you. That is exactly what happens in my house. So, the kids and I eat together and when hubby comes home he eats usually on the couch while everyone clamors around to talk to him about the day. It isn’t perfect according to the research, but it is what we can manage and if that is all you can manage then that is ok, too. We eat together on the weekends and have long dinners when on family vacations where we get the time to bond and really listen to one another.

But….we have sports and extra curricular activities most nights.

Absolutely! Kids these days have busy schedules. I feel like we schlep kids around like crazy all the time – band, playdate, practice of some sort. I am a mini van blur on the road between practices and games! But you can still make family time a priority – how about dessert together when everyone is home from their activities? Bond over cherries and cinnamon crackers. (Our fave!)

But…..I’m too tired to cook!

I love this one because I just hate to cook. You spend so much time planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up….and about 2 seconds to eat. HATE! The good news is that what is wonderful and beneficial about family dinners is not the food – but the company. (Whew! Thank goodness for me because I am terrible at cooking!) So, use the crock pot, order pizza, open a can or steam something in a bag…do whatever is simple food wise because that part just doesn’t matter. What matters is the conversation and the listening.

But….we’ve been traveling for 2 weeks and I would like a few minutes to myself at dinner time!

No doubt! Being together 24/7 is a lot of together time. Sometimes mom and dad want to have a few minutes to sip their wine and savor the wonderful ambience of their vacation destination.

Pull out the journals! Journaling is a GREAT way to pass the time while waiting for food on a vacation. We journal on every family vacation and I love looking back on them. They become treasured keepsakes. Even the youngest child can join in.

Here are some pages from my then 3 1/2 year old’s journal from visiting South Carolina.

Family Dinner: Child's journal page

There are no rules about what to write in a journal. Whatever is on their mind is OK. Clearly Green Lantern was big at the time.

Family dinner activity Kids journal page

Even the youngest kiddo can draw a picture and then dictate. Write word for word. Their thoughts are precious.Bring glue and scissors and let them add tickets, napkins from restaurants and pieces of brochures (like the albino alligator you see here). Journals are good for every age!

Family Dinner Activity Travel essay by child

However you manage family dinner together you’ll all benefit from it!

Talk to the kids during your family dinner and enjoy it – all the while patting yourself on the back for being a good parent with research to back it up!

Family Dinner Time - Cappadocia, Turkey

Happy yummy travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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15 Responses

  1. Milosz Zak says:

    A friend of mine is a supply teacher, and he deals with kids all the time. It is incredible how little habits like these can seriously impact early childhood development, and reverberate into adult life.

  2. We don’t have kids (yet) but my husband and I eat dinner together pretty much every day so that we have time to catch up and talk before we space out with tv or books or whatever

  3. Laura says:

    I very much agree with family dinner time with no electronics. In today’s world, it’s good to just get in what you can – anything is better than nothing at all.

  4. Family dinners were something I really looked forward to growing up – and still do! I recognized when my parents took the time to talk with us kids when they easily could have plopped us in front of the TV and hope kids growing up with ipods and ipads today can recognize the value in these dinners!

  5. Sara says:

    Agree! 🙂 And I love the journaling idea! Thanks 🙂

  6. I’ve been a keen advocate towards having dinner on the table even not just with kids. I grew up in a household where were taught that a family/friends should share dinner together and I love it tremendously! I’ve been constantly teaching my boyfriend (we both came from different cultures) that dinner is one of the most important part of the day where we sit down and talk about our day at work and as well about the next day and just about anything! It gives you a good perspective of the other person’s experiences and as well how well are they doing. Communication is always a good key! My sister always keep her kids on the dinner table when it is time. They stop whatever they are doing and enjoy a nice homecooked meal together as a family. In my experience it keeps the family stronger 🙂

  7. Drifter says:

    This is such a good post. My dad never let me eat dinner anywhere else but on the dinner table. TV was a big “no-no”. As a kid I always cribbed about it but now I understand and I’m glad he did what he did 🙂

  8. Majesta Zea says:

    Dinner together is super important. I am a big electronics person and it is hard for me to put down my phone but I know i should!

  1. October 19, 2017

    […] Why family dinner is so great for curious kids […]

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