How to Set the Family Table to Set the Tone of the Home
Family dinners can increase your effectiveness in creating the home atmosphere and bonding you are wanting.
The family dinner table is making a comeback
Science has proven that the family that eats together has fewer social problems. Drug use and promiscuity of children drops and divorce rates plummet.
The statistics for the evening meal have improved. In the late nineties only 33% of Canadians ate at the family dinner table. The statistics in the States were similar. Today only 20-30% do not eat at the family dinner table and 93% of families cook the meals at home.
The numbers are still dismal for eating breakfast and lunch together. Work schedules and sporting schedules are the top obstacles but more families are making the effort.
When my sons were little, we had an old-fashioned high chair that pulled right up to the table. We started early with eating together at the family table for almost every meal.
The sporting years and then the part time job years were the hardest to schedule around. For a time, my husband travelled and so did I for work. During those years, we planned formal Sunday Dinners. Now that would be harder with many places teens work being open on Sundays.
Whenever we were home, we ate breakfast and lunch together at the table as well.
Is being together at the table enough?
We are eating together more often and even cooking healthier meals. Being physically together is only the first step.
Don’t forget the conversation. This is the time to really bond as a family. Cell phones should be off. I always worked from home but I would tell clients to call back after the meal was over. No books or toys was the rule in our house. Television was for special TV dinner nights around a movie or a special program usually with pizza. You can’t be formal all the time.
I found some great conversation starters to print out for free. You can find them in this article by Jennifer Schmidt on how to use them at
Click on her link that says, “Print out the Starter Conversation Questions” at the bottom of her article. They will download to your computer using the method of your browser and you can find them in a .pdf file in your Downloads folder. You can even add some of your own questions or story starters at the end before you print them out. She gives instructions to use Avery cards or cut them apart. Avery cards are available for your printer in many sizes. Easiest would be to print one page and take it to your stationery store to check for size and configuration of Avery product you need. There are even some with graphics on them.
This would make a great gift for another family. Put them in a decorative container. She shows some examples for inspiration.
A Time for Teaching
Young children learn table manners, the art of conversation and how to interact appropriately. We used our best dishes and we drank juice and koolaid from the crystal wine goblets we bought on sale. Try your second hand shops. You should not be afraid they’ll get broken. Your kids need to learn to eat at a properly set table and they feel grown up and respected when eating from the “fancy” dishes and glassware.
We could take our children to a good restaurant for a treat and they knew how to act. We were once at a fast food restaurant designed for kids to run amuck. My boys went to the window to watch the pizza being made then returned to our table to talk. The staff commented to us, as we left, about the behaviour of the boys. By then it was habit to enjoy our mealtimes in conversation.
Promote Good Nutrition at Your Family Table
When eating is more than the food, it is easier to promote the healthy meals you want your family to eat. Sitting up to the table is about family time and the food is only part of the ritual.
There needs to be a few rules with young children. The most common is no dessert until you finish the main course. As soon as my kids were able, we let them dish out their own portions but they had to eat what they took. They learned to take a small amount to try a new food and not to overload their plates with more than they could eat. If someone else put food on their plate, they did not have to finish it. We did not make too much fuss about what or how much our kids ate at the table.
However, if they did not eat the meal that was served, they did not eat something else or snack until the next meal. In return, I made every effort to serve nutritious and appealing food. The 20% per cent for fun and 80% for nutrition rule helped. I made a few meals designed for the kids and we ate them happily together. I introduced more grownup food gradually.
My own boys were not picky eaters and neither is my husband. I have siblings who were very picky and I have watched my girlfriend step up to this challenge with my goddaughter. They still have things they won’t eat but not making a fuss has allowed them to gradually expand what they will try.
Variety can make meals more fun.
Variety in food and in setting adds to a fun mealtime. I mentioned TV or movie nights. Remember it is more fun if it is a treat and not done too often. My mom had a “make your own night” which was really just using up all the leftover bits from the fridge meal. She managed to make it a fun night we looked forward to by setting it up as a restaurant buffet and letting us take our plates to the living room to eat.
My husband and I enjoy eating outdoors in the gazebo. Lunchtime is best for us, as there is less to transport out to the table. We like to cook over a fire pit. It is a great time to entertain but the family needs to have these times without company as well.
If you usually eat at a kitchen table, clean off the dining room table and set your fanciest table for just the family to show them they are special.
Feed the Soul at the Family Table
First, I’m going to talk about the simple things like a centerpiece and candles. A few flowers or a bowl of fruit is the simplest centerpiece. I have used a houseplant, an ornament, or seasonal decorations. For a special occasion, use appropriate items. The dollar store is an ideal place to find inexpensive things.
If you are not artistic, keep it simple. It really is the thought that counts.
We eat our dinner by candlelight every evening in the winter, as it is already dark. Sometimes we light them in daylight just to set a mood. There is something soothing about candlelight. My kids grew up with candlelight dinners. To eliminate the carbon, use beeswax or the new battery operated candles.
If you have a favourite restaurant, look around you to see what is feeding your soul then duplicate it at home. The family table is a great place to show your family you care. It takes very little time or expense to set a great looking table.
My everyday dishes look just like the ones in the photo. I chose all white sturdy stoneware and inexpensive water and wine goblets (I use them for juice too) that will take some pretty rough use. They have no design so they go with any tablecloth or place mat and with any decorations.
I have inherited my mother’s crystal and my grandmother’s bone china. I love to see them in my china cabinet but I use them when i am being formal. I set a formal table sometimes for just my husband and I at times. Don’t always wait for company. My everyday dishes are sometimes used for company if the decor suits them better.
Do You Leave Room for Jesus at Your Family Table
Most important, do you start your meal with thanks to God for providing and to the cooks for preparing. This attitude of gratitude sets the tone for the meal.
The family table is a great place to talk about issues of the day. You can include God in your discussions. How can trusting God help in your situations? Remember families are strengthened through faith practised in the home. The meal table is the easiest place to have everyone together.
Would you be pleased to have Jesus at your table? Would He feel blessed to be a part of your family time together?
Does your Family Table Set the Tone You Want for Your Home?
Can you improve on your family mealtimes? Do you have rituals that make your family feel special?
How do you bond as a family at the table? Let me know in the comments or on my facebook page at https://fb.com/valuethevows.