Importance of the Family Table (with a look at educational benefits)

Photo: Celebrating Motherhood Everyday

We already know research backs up the notion that families eating around the table together has a profound impact on the quality of home and the unity of its members.

An article in the Home Renaissance Foundation said,

“…family dinners generate ‘human capital’. Kids who sit down regularly with parents and siblings do better at exams than those who don’t. Rates of substance abuse, obesity and eating disorders are also lower….It is at the dining table that we impart some of the most important lessons of life: how to tell a story, share our recollections of the day and listen politely. It is where kids should learn something about manners. Not formal etiquette, but how to behave in company. It is easy to dismiss these things as irrelevant.” Bridges & Tangents

And this from “Meals and Food”:

“Eating together, each day, without the TV or computer on, can bring so many blessings to family life. It gives your children time with you, and time with each other. It allows you to listen, to talk, and to share things. It gives rhythm and regularity to each day, and to the week – which is so important for the children. It puts the brakes on the constant rushing of modern life.

Eating together gives space for personalities to grow, for language to develop, for ideas to emerge. It gives a simple way of praying together, if you say grace before meals, and pray in thanksgiving after them. And you make sure that the children are eating well!”

But even beyond these important reasons families should make breaking bread together a priority, the table affords incredible learning opportunities with a little deliberate attention.

Here are a few ideas to ignite conversation and discussion, key components in a real education:

  • Read an article from the newspaper and ask each one (who is old enough) if he agrees, why or why not, or some other questions pertinent to the article.
  • Read a passage of Scripture and then a commentary about it (we love Matthew Henry’s). You could also have your children “narrate” or tell back what you read.
  • Keep an educational/interesting facts “table book” handy and read an excerpt from it.
  • Incorporate art at the table. Show a different work of art each night and ask the children to offer some interpretation about it, or read about the artist and the history of the work.
  • Prepare pieces of paper ahead of time with “Did you know” facts on them. Fold them, put them in a bowl in the middle of the table, and each night a different child can take turns drawing one and sharing it.

I would love to know if your family has any ideas to make the most of table talk!

 

 

11 Responses to “Importance of the Family Table (with a look at educational benefits)”

  1. Laine says:

    Hi Kelly, we’ve been praying for yall!
    Our idea for table talk began with a Christmas gift from a family in our church: A quaint little jar of “Dinnertime Questions”.
    For the past 15 months, we have documented everyone’s answer to these random questions in a journal. Sitting on my grandmother’s old dining room table is the journal, a pen, and the jar of questions, waiting on the next family meal! It is so fun to look back, even though we haven’t been doing it long, and see everyone’s answers to questions like: “What do you think you’ll be doing in 5 years?” or “What do you think is the greatest invention?” or “If you owned an airplane, where would you go?” or “If you could say anything to the world, what would you say?” (that was a fun one, because my answer was: “WE ARE ADOPTING AGAIN!!!!” and that was how we announced it to our kiddos…so fun!) It is also hilarious to read our little ones’ answers….goodness, what a laugh!
    Thanks for sharing this!
    Blessings,

    • Word Warrior says:

      Wow, Laine, that is THE best ever! I’m always telling my kids that people are too busy to write important things down and one day, that’s largely all that’s left of them. To be able to read over such a journal like you guys are doing of your great grandmother’s? That will be priceless.

  2. Laura says:

    It’s so funny, Kelly, when you talk to people. I grew up in a home where supper around the table happened every night and it was always homemade. I could count on one hand the number of times we ordered out for pizza…we NEVER did. And it was so funny! When my brother turned about 20, he started to think the whole family around the table thing was uncool and he was an adult and yadayada…Well, he moved away, and after a few weeks he was calling my mom and me and asking, “How do make such and such?” And when he came home, was much more grateful of the effort put in for a meal, and more willing to be on time for them:) And so I have done the same in my family. We always eat around the table. There is no taking food and wandering around the house to eat(unless we are sick). It makes too much work for me and allows us to be too separate. Even if hubby isn’t home, i cook a meal and we eat it together around the table. It never occurred to me that many families don’t do this at all–AT ALL! No one cooks and everyone lives on cereal and breakfast bars and frozen this or that…It sounds so awful and temporary…not living somewhere, but just staying…making shift to eat odds and ends…*shudder* It’s not easy to do so, but I hope that my kiddos realize its benefits and follow suit…and find young ladies someday who know the importance of this family tradition.

  3. Kelly L says:

    Love the family table, even though we don’t do any of those cool ideas. We’ll start, in a looser way, since my DH has a “fun” schedule, and so do we once the injury is healed (getter closer!!!). Your ideas really help me keep the focus where it should be: Christ and my family. :)

  4. Charity says:

    I think it is so sad that the idea of a family sitting around the table having a meal together is a foreign thought. Slightly different thought here, but…. It’s odd, because we very rarely eat out, but we did a couple of weeks ago. While sitting and having our meal we were approached by *three* different people saying they just couldn’t believe our children (we have four littles and another due any day now) we sitting there eating their food. One elderly lady even said that since our children were so good we had her “permission” to keep having babies. (kinda weird, but ok) Really? It’s actually surprising to people to see children sitting and eating and behaving like they should at a meal setting?? How sad and weird that it’d be normal and expected for themto be running wild, yelling, throwing food and tantrums, etc. Just got me to thinking that no wonder some people are turned off at the thought of “all those kids” when they expect them all to be unruly all the time. Just my 2¢

    • Word Warrior says:

      I agree with you, Charity, and have made the same observation–it shouldn’t be odd that children sit and eat at the table. And perhaps it is precisely because so few families do it at home, that it becomes a spectacle when they try in public.

      I once linked to this EXCELLENT article, “Virtue Begins With a Spoon“…profound thoughts.

  5. Eva says:

    My dad and I usually talk about something that’s going on in the news. Our family likes to know what’s going on around us. We also usually talk about the work we have to do tomorrow, if anyone we know is sick or in need of help or prayers, and stuff like that. The little kids talk about what they learned in school, what is growing in the garden, etc.

  6. At our house, with 4 kids 10 y.o. and under there is never a lack of themes to talk about. Everyone is always sharing something and playing and having fun. Sometimes, we just have to ask the kids to be quiet and enjoy a quiet dinner…the quiet usually lasts about a minute! :) It’s fun…I love it. I grew up eating around the table. We always had meals together… not just dinner, but breakfast and lunch too. Weekends we were always together; cooking together and eating together. I love it and am busy stilling that into my kids.

    When we do go out, people say the same things to us: they are always amazed that our kids are well behaved, talking and interacting with us (instead of playing a DSI or texting on cellphones), actually eating the food from the restaurant, instead of eating MacDonalds or some other fast food and just enjoying our time out.

    I know my kids will keep on the tradition. They already love to cook and call out to each other when it’s meal time.

  7. Keri says:

    Lots of good answers and ideas! I absolutely loved the last one.I think it will work great with even 20 something year olds who are eating dinner with us.Thanks!!

  8. Erica says:

    When I had children I had this vision of what I wanted…and it included meals around the table as a family. So when I had kids that what I did. Sadly the past couple of years due to the small size of our home we were forced to eat in our living room area…and thanks to my husband the TV became the main focus during dinner. I hate it. I want the TV turned off. I don’t want anyone watching it – let alone at dinner! My husband can’t handle NOT having the TV on…he’d have one in the bedroom and go to sleep with it on if I let him. With our recent move – into a BIGGER house – I now have the space for those family meals again! But due to habit from the past few years we haven’t put family dinners into effect…yet. My husband talks about family dinners around the table all the time – but tries to talk about turning the TV so he can still watch it! The few times that we haven’t had a TV on during the meal I have had to deal with him telling the kids to not talk & eat. I continually have to tell him that dinner around the table together is supposed to be a time where we talk about our day and what’s going on in our lives! He doesn’t get it yet…and I am determined to show him what a REAL family meal is like!!!

    I have arranged the house so that you can’t see the TV from the table – unless you can see THROUGH walls!!! I am going to clean the table off and get it set for dinner TONIGHT! I am totally motivated to have a nice home cooked meal with everyone around the table in the kitchen now. The best part is that I just received the book The Mystery of History…a book about the history of the world based on the Bible. There are ways to use it to incorporate it into a daily devotional time. My husband & I talked about using it for family devotions and not just as a tool/textbook for their education. I think it’d be a great thing to use during dinner! It can start a conversation and be a great way to find out where the kids are on their understanding of Christianity and their own individual walks with the Lord. Since my husband doesn’t like conversation at dinner I am hoping that it will also open the door for him to see what a blessing that time CAN be.

    I wasn’t aware of all the positives that eating together can have. I just knew that it was a good thing to do. Something I didn’t have growing up and envied when I went to friends that did do it and promised myself that I would make sure my own children got to experience it. Knowing that it is during the routine day to day tasks that I am able to really connect with the kids…I am praying that God can show my husband the joys that such a little thing can bring. I have games (Apples to Apples) that were purchased to be used during dinner. It is a really good conversation starter. You have one card that has “topic” that you turn over and then the other people have to sort through their cards to find something that is an example of that one word topic & the person who chose the “topic” picks out the winning card. For example – the topic could be “sweet” and the cards that the participants put in can read like – “candy”, “80′s music”, “Mustang”, “tie dyed t shirts”, “trip to France” – and the person who chose the “sweet” card gets to choose the winner from the cards turned over. This game has led us to have some really interesting conversations during a regular game and I think it would be a lot of fun to try and use during a meal. Talking about why each person chose a card and why the topic chose the winning card.

    The possibilities are endless! And thanks for reminding me that I needed to clean off the kitchen table so we can start having dinner together without a TV for a change!

  9. Because our kitchen is so small, and our family so large, we have to eat at two tables. Our large table can seat 6, and we set up a card table for 4 more. It is often loud and chaotic, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Well maybe a table that would hold us all!!

    When we have anybody over, we spread out to the living room as well, but we tend to move around in order to talk to everybody. LOL!!

    Mealtime is the best time of the day here. I am an only child, and my parents and I sat down to eat supper together every single night.
    My grown sons and their wives enjoy meals at home so much!!

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