Hectic work and family schedules make it difficult to plan family meals. Although 80 percent of American families say that they value family meals, only a third of families actually eat a meal together daily. Meanwhile, a growing body of research suggests that family meals are a great way to promote optimal social, emotional, and cognitive early childhood development. Healthy and nutritious meals support optimal brain development. Additionally, regular family mealtimes are an opportunity for infants to learn motor skills, be introduced to new words, and develop good eating habits. Through positive interactions and engaged eye contact, routine family meals can create trusting, supportive relationships between parents and children. Infants begin to feed themselves between 6 and 12 months of age, helping their development of fine motor skills. The mouth muscles that are exercised during self-feeding are also important in speech development. When families eat together, children hear new vocabulary and learn how to express their ideas. When parents work to include family meals in their schedules, children tend to be healthier, to do better academically, and to learn stronger communication skills.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest finds that meals cooked at home are much healthier as well. They contain half the calories than those in restaurants, are higher in calcium and fiber, and lower in saturated fats. As children get older, mealtimes offer an opportunity for parents to discuss values, expectations, school, and friends. Children who share family meal times are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol as adolescents. For more information on how to customize nutritious meals for your family, visit http://www.mypyramid.gov/
Holden, B. (n.d.). The Urban Child Institute, Retrieved from http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Download.php?fileId=4936d4066bcdf9.39496939
Holden, B. (n.d.). Special to my life. The Urban Child Institute, Retrieved from http://tiny.cc/TUCI380
Mealtimes matter for healthy brain development. (n.d.). Better Brains for Babies, Retrieved from http://www.bbbgeorgia.org/physicalMealtimes.php