family time at the kitchen table

family time at the kitchen tableDid you know that one of the most critical indicators for a child’s success is the kitchen table? Researchers at the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that kids who ate with their families five times a week were far less likely to have problems with substance abuse, and were more likely to earn better grades. 

No need to stress just yet if family dinners aren’t your strong point. While family dinners around this kitchen hub can be a great, consistent way to connect with your kids and provide the opportunities for communication and togetherness that kids need, scheduling consistent, quality time with your kids at least once a week (preferably more!) is just as important. In other words, lucky for today’s busy families and kids, the table is just a starting point.

The Metaphorical Table

The most important part of consistent, scheduled quality time (like mealtimes) is simply creating time for your family to be together and foster trust, bonding, love, and familiarity. It can help to think of the kitchen table as metaphorical as you plan quality time with your kids. What can you do on a consistent basis that will bring everyone “to the table?”

In some families, this can mean going on a Pokemon Go hunt for a few hours, or playing a board game together. In others it might mean going for a walk or doing a puzzle. How you chose to spend this time together doesn't matter--just so long as you do it!

Rakeish Bedesi, president of says, “When families have dinner together it actually says that nothing else matters but you. It actually fosters that environment with the child that, ‘hey, my parents are here for me.’"

The same principle applies with other activities that allow you to spend time enjoying one another’s company. If it sends the message that you care, and that you’re taking time to focus on one another--you’re setting the stage for success! 

J King, a school counselor at DeSoto High School says, "Anything that families consistently do together, to promote a unity and a bond leads to emotionally stronger individuals. The positive results will last a lifetime.”

Consistency Is Key

While how you choose to spend quality time together doesn’t make much of a difference, how often you spend that time together does! Consistency is key with kids. Being able to count on this type of quality time gives kids something they can look forward to if something’s on their mind, or if other aspects of life feel chaotic. Consistency also sends a strong message that spending time together is a high priority all the time--not just sporadically. Week by week, these interactions and bonds will  create, strength, and and shape relationships with your children.

Ideas to Try

Not sure where to start? Working together with your kids is a great place to start if you’re not sure what types of activities would be best for your family to consistently enjoy quality time together and stay close. Sit down together and brainstorm (bonus! This is also quality time!). You can also try a few of these ideas to get the wheels turning!

  • Walk the family dog together
  • Prepare a meal together
  • Make a special treat together
  • Go for a jog together
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Have a family game night
  • Hunt Pokemon together
  • Watch a short TED talk together, then talk about it
  • Play with Snapchat together
  • Visit the park feed the ducks
  • Volunteer together at the local food bank
  • Shoot hoops together, or kick a ball around

Whatever you do, start today. Scheduling and following through with quality time isn’t always easy, but the memories you create and the bonds you form are what parenting is all about.

Download our 'Dinner Table' Guide

Interested in what you see here? Idaho Youth Ranch offers parenting classes to help parents develop skills to build and maintain positive relationships with their kids. Join our parenting gurus for this series where you can learn skills, ask questions, and have discussions in a non-judgmental, relaxed environment.

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