Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 resolution #2: family dinner (at a set time)

My resolutions this year focus on sustainability. By that, I mean new habits I hope I can form that I won't tire of by February 1st...and that are actually attainable for me, and for our family. Yesterday, I told you about my goal to eat breakfast daily. The next one is more family-oriented: to eat dinner together at 6:00pm.

Most nights, I make a homemade meal for my family. And most nights I sit with the kids around, oh, 4:30 while they stagger through their mealtime. Mealtimes here aren't pretty. (Yes, I did just admit that.) There's a lot of lolly gagging, and not a lot of fork to mouth. My kids aren't picky eaters (at all really), they just aren't into eating (figures, right?). Anyway, a result, it's pretty frustrating for me. So, here are the changes I hope to make in the new year so dinnertime goes more smoothly for all four of us:

  • Dinner will be held (you like that-- it's like a special invitation) at 6:00pm. By setting a time (which the kids were in on deciding from two choices: 6:00 or 6:30), I hope to avoid the hunched over moan that accompanies "do I reaaaaalllllyyy neeeeeeeed to stooooooooop plaaaaaaaaying and come to eat noooooow?". Yes, it's 6:00pm, and you know that is when we have dinner.
  • Ideally, by eating later than, um, mid-afternoon, my husband will also be able to join us. Or at least he can catch the tail end of the "fun". Having him there for mealtimes will make it more enjoyable for everyone, and less like I am "feeding the kids".
  • Somewhere, I read that mealtimes should have an end time too, not to rush everyone, but rather so there's an expectation that this is when we're eating and once it's over it's over. No post-dinner/pre-bedtime snacking. So, we've got a 6:30 end time agreed upon by all four of us, which will mean the kids have a half hour to have dinner and then a half hour to play before bedtime.   
  • Because dinner is going to be served about an hour to an hour and a half later than I have historically fed the kids, I plan to prep a bunch of fruits and veggies weekly to pull out and make a healthy platter to tide the kids over. This does not mean that the snack drawer will become a free for all. My goal is to place a platter of fresh fruits and veggies out on the kitchen table each day to be enjoyed between 4:30-6:00. This organization effort will no doubt carry over to healthier snack and lunch options for me as well if they're washed, chopped and ready to go...
I'm curious if your family has a set daily dinnertime, and if you have additional strategies that I should be trying, as we attempt to have more harmonious family dinners-- where the kids actually eat? I'll keep you posted on how this goes...


  1. Set! Nah...I can't get my act together for that...or can I? You have me thinking and planning and gathering and planning some more! So you know I aim to eat the same good foods as the kids (well, they leave it all, but at least I will get to have it). Now I have to plan a good time...homework tends to screw things up a bit but I will stand firm!!! Love the pictures..more ideas for my mommy brain :)

  2. if you scroll down this right hand column, there's a whole category dedicated to "rainbow plates for kids". you might like to check that out.

    as for time management, yes, that is the challenge. here's how I hope it will go, with school ramping up again tomorrow:

    on days when my older son does not have an activity:
    3:15(ish)- home from school + snack
    3:30-4:30 - free play with his brother
    4:30-5:30 - homework + free reading time
    5:30-6:00 - tubs and into PJs
    6:00-6:30 - dinner
    6:30-7:00 - more free play
    7:00 - story time
    7:30 - lights out

    it becomes a lot trickier when there's an after school class... but, I have explained that that then becomes his "free play" time since he's chosen to take a class with his friends after school. so:

    4:30/4:45 - home from an activity
    4:45-5:45 - homework + free reading time
    5:45-6:00 - tub time and PJs
    6:00-6:30 - dinner
    6:30-7:00 free play with his brother
    7:00 - story time
    7:30 - lights out

    does that seem doable with your family?

  3. I came across this post from a fellow busy mom blog writer and thought her perspective was worth sharing: I love that she trusts her children to make choices. We're feeding them now... but in a few year's time they'll be expected to make their own choices in cafeteria lines, when out with friends.. so instill a love of good food and an appreciation for good choice making is key.

  4. I have one(12) that comes home about 3:30 and she makes herself a snack and gets to homework, then 2(14 and 16) that come home abour 4:30(when there are no activities planned)and they fix a snack and then homework. My babies(2 and 4) have a snack at 3 at daycare. I normally work til 4 get the babies and get home around 5. Dinner is between 6 and 6:30. everyone eats together and it runs til about 7:30. Then the 3 older ones start the clean up chores while I have the babies in the bath. It normally works great but sometimes they just hang out after and "play" at the table-which would not be bad but delays the WHOLE night. (chores, shower, bed by 9) I think a set end time is a great idea, 30-40 minutes is plenty of time for dinner.

  5. for all fellow readers looking for inspiration, i encourage you to check out "the blog for family dinner" ( and "time at the table" ( fabulous resources!!

  6. "Mouse" - I am so impressed. It sounds like you have really done a phenomenal job of setting your family up for success when it comes to family meals. And wow, you have a large family to coordinate! Kudos to you!!

  7. Thanks for the shout-out to Blog for Family Dinner! (I'm one fo the co-founders and also write about family dinner at

    When my kids were little, I found it really helped to set a dinner time that my husband "could" make, a balance btw when the kids were hungry and what was doable for him. It gave him a deadline at work that he wanted to make. When dinners were "whenever" it was actually harder. Two working parents requires even more of a balance, but I think parents should sit down and discuss what's doable at least a few nights a week rather than assume family dinner is totally impossible.

    Thanks again for your great post supporting family dinner!

  8. Grace, another great recource! Thanks for making me aware of too!! Folks, check it out.

    Full disclosure (since a few of my local friends have pointed this out to me in our conversations this week): it was my husband's recent firm closing (and resulting job loss) that spurned this goal. Suddenly a 6pm dinner where all 4 of us were present was doable. Lemonade out of lemons, folks!! Living in a NYC commuter suburb, I totally get that many of my fellow parents may not have the luxury of having both parents home in time for dinner each night by 6pm, but I love how so many friends I've run into since writing this post have said, "that's such a great idea, we're going to aim to do this on Wednesdays" or "you know, having a known 'dinnertime' makes my husband that much more inclined to get home from work in time to join us when he can". Every family meal is a treat, whether it's once/month, once/week-- whatever works for your family.

  9. We usually eat around 4:30 because my 3 year old is hungry. If I give her snacks prior the dinner is ruined. My snacks do consist of fresh fruit or veggies. I prefer to eat earlier and have a late snack. All families are different and you need to do what is best for you. I think it is more important to sit as a family with your husband. Food/hunger will work into your schedule. I look forward to your success stories!

  10. another inspirational post from those "experts" (meaning parents who have figured it out and lived to tell about it): enjoy!!!


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