An overwhelming 86% of parents wish they could spend more quality time with their kids. Could we do more to make dinner time into quality, family time?
According to new research from parenting brand Stokke, less than half (45%) of British parents consider the time they spend with their children to be actual ‘quality time’. The survey of 2,000 parents revealed that an overwhelming 86% of parents wish they could spend more quality time together with their children, but thanks to work (46%) and a steady stream of chores (39%), many feel that there are obstacles preventing them from setting aside quality time.
Between our hectic schedules, day-to-day life admin, and ongoing stress, could we be making more out of the time we already spend together? Could dinner time offer a regular opportunity to not only spend more quality time together, but to also promote a healthier, more balanced way of eating?
Tips to help turn dinner time quality time
Make cooking a family affair
If you find mealtimes to be stressful, sharing the load and getting the whole family involved could help to get even the fussiest of eaters more onboard. Cooking together can help children to feel more comfortable trying new things and experimenting with foods – all whilst giving you the opportunity to help them learn more about healthy, balanced nutrition.
If you’re more of a hesitant cook than a whiz in the kitchen, experimenting and trying new things together, can help to increase your own confidence and encourage you to try different flavour combinations you may have avoided to appease less adventurous palates. By building on your – and your family’s – confidence in the kitchen, it can also create the added benefit of cutting back on overly processed foods and takeaways that can be high in sugar and unhealthy fats, all whilst creating quality together-time.
If you’re particularly worried about fussy eaters, check out these tips from dietitian Dr Stephanie Fade on how you can better understand why your child may be struggling with new foods, and what you can do to help.
Eat together more often
Infant and toddler nutritionist, Charlotte Stirling Reed, advises thousands of parents at Stokke to help develop healthier, more sustainable mealtime habits for the whole family. Charlotte advises eating together can be one of the most powerful tools for creating happier, quality time together during mealtimes.
“Simple but often challenging, not eating together is the biggest bad habit we are all guilty of. Aim to sit and eat together whenever possible as a first step to healthy, happy mealtimes! Children learn the skills of eating, social skills, and even what foods they enjoy by first copying others.”
By eating together, you can encourage children to have a healthier relationship with food.
Avoid setting too many mealtime rules
Setting too many rules can create a sense of pressure that can turn mealtime into less of a chance to connect and share quality time together, making it more of a chore for both kids and the whole family. Charlotte explains:
“Many rules are well intended, such as clearing your plate, eating all your vegetables first, or sitting at the table until everyone has finished. Too many rules can take the fun out of family mealtimes, which is ideally when you all want to unwind and spend some time together.”
If you’re worried rules may be getting in the way, try and sit down together as a family to decide on a shorter list of rules that mean the most to you all. Talking through why they are important can also help children to feel involved in the process, as well as to better understand which rules may be causing the most stress for the least benefit.
Ditch separate meals
While it can be tempting to cook different meals to give fussy eaters a back-up option, this can create extra stress whilst avoiding the root problem. If your child is a fussy eater, it can be tricky to know how you can still keep their meals healthy, balanced, and nutritious. Instead of preparing a different meal, getting them involved in the process of cooking, shopping for ingredients, and even planning the week’s meals can encourage them to be more adventurous, and help food to seem less daunting.
“Keep it simple, have one option that the whole family enjoys. It’s good for you and your children to eat the same meals, and seeing you eating similar foods, encourages them to eat a wide variety themselves.” Charlotte advises.
If this doesn’t seem to help, try not to make the fussy eater the sole focus of attention at dinnertime. Try to keep the conversation flowing, and focus on spending quality time together.
We may like to think it’s something that teenagers are more likely to do than we are, but as adults, studies have suggested we check out phones up to 150 times a day, spending an average of 2 hours 15 minutes scrolling through social media alone. We aren’t the only ones being distracted though.
According to research by Stokke, over two thirds of us try using the TV, our phones, or toys as ways to distract our kids to get them to eat whilst they aren’t paying attention! While this may seem like a quick fix for getting picky eaters to eat just a few veggies, it can teach children that food is bad or unimportant, potentially leading to unhealthy habits developing over time. Instead, make dinner time a chance for everyone to switch off and enjoy time together with no outside distractions.