1–Manners are one of the first things we teach our kids when they start to ask for food or eat up at the table. Please and thank you are the obvious ones. But we can teach our kids to consider the other person by seeing what they need and passing it. By not hoeing in, but being aware of how the food has to be there for everyone. How to use a serviette, knife and fork,. How to serve a meal or serve drinks etc…
2–Conversation – Meal times are a great time to learn how to have a conversation; learn to listen to others, ask questions and offer thoughts or opinions yourself.
3–Knowledge – As people talk – and you talk about different things – we have the opportunity to increase in knowledge. When we encourage everyone to contribute to family conversations everyone gets to talk about their passions or the things they are learning – and in doing so, someone else learns: General knowledge, Bible knowledge, Biblical worldview, Current Affairs, Community awareness etc
4–Expand our taste buds – For some reason when we sit at the table we are more inclined to try something new compared with a TV or movie dinner (or dinner on the run) where we reach for comfort foods that we are familiar with. It is good to expand our kids taste buds when they are young, it gives good practice for when we are with other people who may serve unfamiliar foods. To be able to eat a ‘different’ food when served to you shows respect to the cook.
5–Hear our parents heart – though we encourage family conversations where everyone contributes, there are times when the kids are quiet and they listen to mum and dad talk, or maybe at the end of an intense discussion, mum or dad have something to say. When we talk in front of the kids, they hear what is important to us and they learn our heart for God and life.
6–Character – When eating together is a relational thing, there are many opportunities to respond to either people or situations with character: patience, self control, sensitivity and deference. We need to model such responses as well as teach and encourage our kids when the opportunity arises.
7–Creativity – Making the table look nice, or serving the food in a pleasing way doesn’t have to be kept for visitors. When we spend a little time making the table look nice, everyone comes with a sense of knowing this is a special time. Our kids can learn to set the table, and go the extra mile (with a flower, candle, serviettes folded, etc) from a young age.
8–Our family heritage – Having just had grandparents come to stay it was a good reminder that sitting around the table, over a meal, is a good time for family stories – as we share our stories, our parents stories, we are teaching our kids their heritage. Don’t forget to tell them God stories as well – the good things God has done for you and for the family.
9–How to share our family with others – eating together regularly sets the stage to invite others to join you. When we do this, the kids learn to share and give, not only food, but friendship as well to others.
10–Gratefulness – when we sit at the table we are less likely to disperse at will, which gives us an opportunity to teach and grow in gratefulness – gratefulness to those we eat with, those who cooked, and those who clean up. And of course, gratefulness to God who provided all.