Make the Most of Mealtimes

The dinner table holds many fond memories from my growing up years. After we’d eaten dinner as a family, we lingered around the table. Sometimes we sang. Sometimes we talked about current events. Occasionally I’d subject my sweet family to a fifteen minute history lesson on the causes of the Battle of Hastings. (I’m so glad they love me!)

As we children grew older and our schedules got more hectic, dinnertime became even more special. I remember unwillingly dragging myself away from the table because I simply had to go study for a test.

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In our hectic culture, it’s getting more rare for families to eat dinner together each night. According to a recent Gallup poll, only about a quarter of Americans with children eat dinner together daily. Almost one quarter eat three dinners or less together per week.

Even more sad is that the average parent only spends 38.5 minutes in meaningful conversation with their children per week! (A.C. Nielsen Co.)

38.5 minutes isn’t nearly enough time to nurture a soul and shape a worldview.

In the Bible, the table is where much of the worldview-shaping in a family takes place. The table is a place for teaching, for feasting, for fellowship. When the Psalmist painted a picture of a blessed man, he described his children “as olive plants round about his table.” (Ps. 128)

My desire is that as my children hit their teenage years, they find it as hard to pull away from our table as I did from my parents’.

But a table the family loves to linger around doesn’t just happen. It takes work, time, and lots of love.

Building our family culture is part of our calling and making the most of mealtimes is part of that building process.

  • Start meaningful conversations. Take turns sharing about your day, tell what you’re grateful for, and ask questions. Teach your children to listen and ask questions too.
  • Make the meal beautiful. This is one my mom was so good at! She often pulled out a pretty tablecloth, lighted a candle, and made a centerpiece. Even for simple meals, the food looked aesthetically pleasing. I remember her adding green beans to the meal at the last minute because “the meal has too much brown and orange in it.”
  • Learn together. Memorize a poem together or take turns sharing new things you’ve learned. As they get older, encourage them to share about what they’ve learned in school or discovered themselves.
  • Teach about food. What better time to teach your children about different kinds of food and the benefits of eating good fresh food, than while sitting around the table!
  • Tell stories. There are few things my children love more than a family story. I have also started telling the stories of the Bible to them at breakfast. My five and three-year-old love it, even though I’m generally reading straight from the pages of the Bible. Not only does telling stories at breakfast mean that they’re sitting nice and still, we don’t let a busy day crowd out the Scriptures!
  • Treasure meals together. I am so blessed to have a husband that is such a good example in this. Even when he’s incredibly busy at work, he makes great efforts to come home and eat with us. Sometimes I don’t do as good of a job. If I really want my children to treasure mealtimes, I need to lead by example and treat time with them around the table as more important than getting the dishes done efficiently.
What about you? How do you make the most of your mealtimes?

Linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeEncourage One AnotherWalking Redeemed, Our Simple Country Life, & Proverbs 31

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

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  1. says

    I need to get back in the habit of reading the Bible to my children over meal times. My goal is to read the Proverbs of the day at breakfast. Thanks for this motivation to get back to that.

    • anna says

      That’s a wonderful goal! I’ve not read the Proverbs to the children yet and I’m sure they’d really benefit from it (as would I!) Hmmmmm… maybe at lunch time for us? 🙂

  2. says

    I love this post! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂 My babies are only 4 months old right now but as our family grows I want to always make this a priority!

  3. says

    Mealtime together is really a simple thing, but brings about amazing results. Thank you for sharing all your tips and recommendations. I really needed this right now.
    I am encouraging my 12 year old daughter help me make our dinner table beautiful, just because. And your post is just what I needed.
    (stopping by from Proverbs 31 Thursdays)

    • anna says

      That’s so wonderful! My daughter definitely has more of an eye for the beautiful than I do and it’s been so fun to learn from and with her. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. says

    Mealtime can hold so many memories if you create them. 🙂 Enjoy making the table look lovely and the food delicious. I’ve always loved eating by candlelight. 🙂

  5. says

    Dinner at the table as a family seems like it’s getting to be a lost art. There is always that pull for everyone to go watch television, use their phones or computers.

    But we mothers can keep making the effort as much as we possibly can, to set the table and make it an inviting place. It is easier when the children are little, but takes more work when they are teens. They get so busy!

    Mrs. White
    The Legacy of Home

    • anna says

      I can only imagine! I’m hoping that by setting a good foundation when they’re little, they’ll want to be around the table as they get bigger… even if their schedules don’t always permit. 🙂

  6. says

    I actually came across this post from a comment you made on Sadly enough, I had left the table frustrated because my two older girls were done, but the two younger ones were taking forever and I was just ready for dinner to be over. This isn’t a norm, but I came to the computer where music was playing and started checking blogs. Imagine my heart sinking as I read this post, and realized how cheaply I had treated “the table.” Thanks for writing this! It was encouragement just when I needed it the most. = )

    • anna says

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing. God really convicted me after dozens of mornings of scarfing down breakfast so I could get stuff done while the kids ate (at a much more leisurely pace.) Housework can wait a few minutes—they grow up way to fast not to take advantage of time around the table with them.

  7. says

    This is a great post on the importance of family dinners. Our family does high/low/gratitude (the high of our day, the low point of our day, and what we are most thankful for) each evening at dinner. The kids enjoy it and it is a great conversation starter.

  8. says

    This post really resonates with me! Family time around the table was something my mom really fought for as we grew up, especially in high school when we were on the go. I have so many wonderful memories of dinner around the table, and lots of laughter to. I too am holding onto this value, and I like all that you shared to help create it as part of our “family culture”.

    • anna says

      What a wonderful heritage we both have in a culture that’s moving more toward fast meals on the go!

      Here’s to upholding it for generations to come! 🙂

  9. says

    Anna, this is something I really need to work on. So often I throw together what I can and sweat through getting two toddlers through the meal. Thank you for offering some simple, doable ideas for me to enhance the dinner hour! Love you!

    • anna says

      Sometimes it’s a challenge enough with only three (and no twins!) I don’t know how you get them all fed a meal together–way to go! Love you too!

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