Dinner time gives family a chance to relax and connect with each other.

The Importance of Sunday Dinner

by Darlene Zagata

If your family is always rushing around and you eat on the go most of the week, you need a good old fashioned Sunday dinner. It's not easy to get everyone together for dinner when hectic schedules clash. Sometimes you're just so tired and rushed that you stop at the nearest fast food place or order pizza when you get home. Start a family tradition with Sunday dinner. It's fun and a great way to nurture your children.

1. Routines and Traditions

Children need routines and structure in their life. Kids do best when routines are predictable and consistent. Getting the family together for Sunday dinner is a way to provide your child with consistency and give the family time to reconnect. Bonding can be difficult when you're busy with work and other activities all the time. The togetherness of a family meal helps children understand the importance of family time. It is a good way to nurture and cultivate the parent/child bond. The family meal should be a time when everyone gets to relax and enjoy spending time together.

2. Healthy Eating Habits

Family mealtime is a great way to introduce your picky child to new foods. Your toddler is probably still taste testing foods and throwing the ones that don't make the cut back at you. Your preschooler may sit there shaking her head no as you precariously spoon the green beans onto her plate. However, Sunday dinner is a great way to get them to try new recipes, especially if you let your little ones help choose the food and plan the menu. Provide them with a variety of foods during your Sunday dinners and be a good role model by trying different foods. According to KidsHealth.org, kids that participate in regular family meals are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables and develop lifelong healthy eating habits.

3. Plan Ahead

Plan your menu and do the grocery shopping in advance, then all you have to do on Sunday is cook the meal. Let your little future chef help you decide what to put on the menu, as long as it's not all cookies, cakes and ice cream. Maybe you can put her in charge of the desert menu. Take your child shopping with you so she can help pick out the goodies. Try a new recipe or slip in a new food that's not part of your regular grocery list. Children are more likely to enjoy family dinners if they can participate in different ways.

4. Be Creative

Use plenty of variety in planning your Sunday dinners. Choose a different theme each week and make it fun. Do Chinese one week and use chopsticks. Well, chopsticks might be pretty messy for your toddler, but then again so is a spoon. Next week, throw a blanket on the floor and have a picnic-style dinner. The following week, you might want to go formal. Get everyone dressed up for dinner and dine in style. Make sure you have plenty of napkins and bibs handy. You get the idea. Get creative and let the whole family make suggestions.

5. Get Everyone Involved

Encourage everyone to participate in preparing Sunday dinner. Toddlers and preschoolers can help wash vegetables and place the silverware on the table. Letting the kids help makes them feel responsible and productive. They will look forward to doing their part for the next family dinner. It's important to make mealtime a family affair. It's more fun when everyone pitches in and a great way to spend time with your children. It also helps kids to develop social skills when they participate in helping with the family meal.

6. Keep it Positive

Sunday dinner is a time to enjoy being with your loved ones. Keep the negativity away. Even if grandma is present and insults your culinary skills, simply smile and tell her you wish you could cook as good as her. Take a deep breath, relax and ask if she would be willing to give you some cooking lessons. Now excuse yourself, go to the bathroom and scream into a towel. Sunday dinner is supposed to be fun, so put all bickering aside. Keep the conversation fun and light. According to HealthyChildren.org, negative comments and criticism should be discouraged. Try to avoid discipline at the dinner table also. If your toddler is flinging her peas across the table, try to redirect her attention. If she's already eaten most of her food, she's probably bored. Take her plate away and give her a cookie for desert. Talk to your kids during dinner and encourage them to participate in the conversation. Dinner conversation teaches kids to listen and helps expand their vocabulary. Ideally, families should eat dinner together four to five times a week, but Sunday dinner is a good way to start and stick to a mealtime routine.

About the Author

Darlene Zagata has been a professional writer since 2001, specializing in health, parenting and pet care. She is the author of two books and a contributing author to several anthologies. Zagata attended the Laurel Business Institute to study in the medical assistant/secretarial program. She earned her associate degree through the U.S. Career Institute.

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