Top 10 Reasons for Shared Meal-times with Children

1.  Social Skills:  Eating together with the family provides on-going, spontaneous opportunities for a young child to observe how Mom and Dad communicate with each other, with other family members, and with the child, itself. Because the dining table requires that people be seated–facing each other–the stage is set to display eye contact, mixed conversation, vocabulary-building, and the ritual exchanges of “How was your day”? These are key segments from which the baby learns to translate sensory impressions into behavior skills.

2.  Speech Benefits:  Research reveals that babies who eat with the family achieve significant developmental gains–at an earlier age than the norm for those skills.  For example, group dining facilitates the baby’s ability to talk sooner and achieve a broader vocabulary.

3. Inclusiveness and Belonging:  The family dining experience can add to the fulfillment of the young child’s basic desire to belong.  Human beings thrive on feeling included.  Imagine the harmony in our world if everyone felt included from their earliest, primary experience.  Newborns recognize the sound of their Mother’s and Father’s voices, which informs the baby that it is part of a larger environment–the family–thereby, strengthening the baby’s association with the family group.

4. Imprinting.  Research confirms that imprinting occurs primarily in the first three years of life.  Within those 36-months, deep unconscious assumptions about the self are formed, internalized, and determine the basic framework on which the child will mold its future sense of itself.

5.  Higher Self-Esteem as Older Children and Adults.  Studies show that children who eat with family members develop a higher sense of self and self- esteem.

6.  Develop Better Decision-Making Strategies.  Children who are part of the family dining circle are more likely to make constructive decisions when confronted with critical, peer pressure, such as the use of drugs or drinking  alcohol.

7.  Better Communication with Parents.  Children who eat with family on a regular basis appear to have more open and honest communication patterns with their parents.  This includes turning to parents with problems or difficult, personal issues.

8.  Safety.  If your child is with you at the table, you have a ring-side seat to observe and intervene if the baby is putting too much food in its mouth or is having difficulty swallowing an oversized bite.

9.  Healthy Eating Habits.  Studies show that children who eat with family members eat healthier and more well-balanced meals.

10.  Etiquette.  Introducing this training at an early age fosters the likelihood that you won’t be saying to your teenager: “Chew with your mouth closed, please”.  By watching family members perform eating skills, the baby becomes nimble with mastering hand-to mouth coordination–and table etiquette is naturally reinforced.

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