When kids are toddlers, getting them to sit through a meal and actually eat what we cook feels like a huge challenge. When they get older, it can be easier to get them to come to the table and their palates are probably growing more adventurous, but it’s harder to find a time each night that we can all sit down at the same time with everyone’s busy schedules.
At every age and stage, there are new challenges and new rewards around family dinner. But I’ve found that what parents seem to find most daunting is trying to decide what to make for dinner each night with ingredients they have on hand, or what to buy at the store, that they can prepare quickly and that everyone in the family will actually eat.
To help families enjoy family dinners more often, I came up with a meal planning system to make family dinners easier. The simple solution used by tens of thousands of families is based on menu planning skills I learned from my mom, like choosing a few simple recipes on the weekend, making a grocery list and shopping just once a week. Years ago, I took my mom’s system into the digital age with an online family dinner planning system called The Six O’Clock Scramble.
Chances are you already work hard to make dinner a priority in your home. You instinctively know how important it is to connect with your family each day around a nourishing meal. Now, research is proving what you already knew. Numerous studies have shown that when families eat dinner together more often:
- Kids maintain a healthier weight
- Families have healthier eating habits, including consuming more vegetables
- Kids have closer relationships with their parents
- Teens are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (like drinking, drugs and early sexual activity)
All this from something as simple as eating dinners together, even a few times each week!
As our kids have gotten older, another big realization for me was that they could each be in charge of making dinner once a week. Not only does this eventually give us a break (once they learn some basic cooking skills), but also it teaches them one of the most valuable life skills of all—feeding themselves and ultimately their family! I find that the easiest way to make this happen consistently is to let them each pick a recipe they want to make when I’m doing my weekly meal planning and making my grocery list.
Here’s a recipe that your kids can easily make on their own for family dinner. They’ll likely have fun mixing the coleslaw and pan-frying the fish, and maybe they’ll even put their own spin on the recipe. But the part they’ll love the most is the satisfaction and joy of knowing that the family is eating something they prepared from start to finish. (Plus, the relief of knowing that for at least one night, they’ll be off of dish duty.)