Mealtime with kids is hectic, we know! It’s why kids often eat separately, but there are some great reasons to eat together as a family if you can.
Since 1980, Australia has undergone significant sociological change, including dramatic increases in the proportion of working mums (up from 43% to 63%) and the proportion of single parent families (rising from less than 7% to 16% in 2016).
With parents and carers increasingly juggling the demands of work, after-school activities and running a household, it's understandable that about one-quarter of Australian families with young kids don't eat the evening meal together more than four times per week.
We've been surveying parents and carers ourselves since 2016 and they consistently tell us they feel rushed at dinnertime and frustrated by a lack of meal planning. A significant number also say they aren't usually able to eat together as a family, even though they want to – and there are great reasons to try!
At Go! Kidz, we firmly believe in the benefits of family mealtime based on the results of numerous scientific studies and our own experience as parents. Here are some of the key benefits and reasons to prioritise family meals together when possible.
Faster Mental Development
For young kids, sharing a dinner table with parents helps to develop their language skills as they discuss their day and get to observe adult conversation. It also helps to develop their social skills, including learning good manners.
Better Mental Health
Research has found that kids who regularly enjoy family dinners (five or more per week) are significantly less likely to experience symptoms of depression.
Stronger Family Bonds
Everyone leads separate lives at work and school, so sharing mealtime helps families to reconnect. Studies reveal that this leads to family members feeling stronger bonds, and it correlates with children that are more likely to have high quality relationships with their parents.
Higher Performance at School
Using data from nearly three-quarters of the world’s countries, an analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that students who regularly eat with their parents are significantly less likely to be absent from school. Another study also found that they perform better at school, achieving much higher grades.
Improved Physical Health
As advised by Australia's Healthy Kids Association (of which Go! Kidz is a 'Registered Product'), family meals are associated with kids eating a higher intake of healthy foods and developing healthier eating habits. There's also research linking family meals with kids that are a healthier bodyweight.
Making Family Meals Happen
If you're having difficulty getting the family together at mealtimes, here are some helpful tips from Australia's Healthy Kids Association:
- If you’re not already eating together regularly, aim to do so just one night a week.
- If dinnertime is too hard, try to have a special family breakfast on the weekends or a family lunch.
- During the week, don’t worry if someone can't make it. Sit with whoever is at home to enjoy a meal.
"Ignore all phones, turn off the TV and ban texting at the table."
- At a loss for conversation? Ask each family member to share one good thing and one bad thing from their day.
- Take turns talking so no one is left out. Use an egg timer for little kids if they tend to ramble!
- Get your children involved in the meal preparation.
Go! Kidz is also here to help with our super healthy ready-to-eat children’s meals, such as chicken nuggets, cottage pie, mac n cheese, lasagne and meatballs and pasta bolognese, that are ready in a flash, so families can easily eat together even when not sharing the same food.
Developed with the help of Skye Swaney, formerly Senior Dietitian at the Healthy Kids Association, every one of our all-natural kids' meals has a 3½ to 4½ health star rating and contains up to 3 serves of vegetables. Best of all, they are a big hit with even the most fussy eaters, helping to make mealtimes easier and happier for busy Sydney parents and carers. If you have any questions about any of our meals, let us know.