“Families who eat together stay together”. I have come across this saying frequently over the last few years. Certainly from experience of working with families in my mission to implant or reignite a love of food, those who eat together on a regular basis tend to have more exploratory little eaters.
There are lots of positives to eating as a family that reach beyond widening a child’s tastes in food, though this in itself is an enormous positive as a child will take their childhood foody tastes well into their adult life. Regular family meal times provide a child with a familiar setting in which they can share their feelings on the day they have had, put forth their viewpoints and even recall what they may be doing the next day (that cookery workshop which you need to buy last minute ingredients for or the football tournament they’d forgotten to tell you about). All of these conversations lead to a calmer and more united family scenario in which we all have respect for each others views and share interest in another's activities and obsessions.
Family mealtimes also allow us to perform some positive role-modelling and instigate our cultural traditions around food. This is particularly important once your children begin school as what happens at lunch time can become an occurrence entirely beyond your control. Positive preparation and eating rituals can be established such as the pleasantries of sharing plates of food and the group efforts at clearing up.
Recently I’ve taken to involving my children more in the preparation of meals so we can have a hearty chat about the day. This may be the simple act of threading grapes onto kebab sticks for a pudding or cutting up herbs to make a fragrant salad. I find this enables many incredibly bonding moments and has created an expectation that helping in the kitchen will always be a pleasure and never a chore. This simple act of sharing food, cultures something I feel we have lost to some extent in our 21st C living, that life is all about respect for each other, food and love.