I recently had a chance to sit down with Laurie David, author of The Family Dinner. Laurie’s mission is to help America’s overwhelmed families sit down to a Family Dinner, and she provides all the reasons, recipes, and fun tools to do so. I asked Laurie how to translate the family dinner for families with young, toddler aged kids?
GM: How can I manage to get my family to sit down for dinner when my toddler-aged kids eat as early as 5pm and dinner consists of ‘toddler’ food, mac ‘n cheese, chicken nuggets and the like? Not exactly appetizing for the parents!
LD: It’s never too early to start, not just sitting down with kids at a ‘real’ dinnertime but also getting kids to eat more ‘grown up’ food. Try to start with 3 menu items, 1 that you know they will eat and 2 others that they will see you eating and hopefully start to try new foods.
GM: What about the time? Many parents are not home early enough to sit for dinner at the time toddlers eat.
LD: Start slow, maybe try for 2 or 3 nights a week that are deemed, ‘family’ night. Parents can either eat a bit earlier on these nights OR they change their bed time rituals to bathe and get in pj’s before dinner. Your goal is to get them and yourself in the habit of sitting down and having conversation together so if it’s 2 nights a week at first that’s great! Weekends can also be included, a Saturday night ritual dinner together can be much easier to schedule. Even if you are going out as adults later, you can sit down and have salad with your kids. Just as long as you sit with them long enough to have a conversation and quality time together.
GM: Most important question, how do you do it all?
LD: I am not a parenting expert, that’s why I started to sit with my kids at the dinner table myself. I wanted to know what was going on with them and I figured out early on that the dinner table is a ‘break’ from the craziness of our day. It’s a place where we can stop and listen to each other and really have a conversation and learn what is going on in their lives.