How to Create Nourishing Mealtime Rhythms
By Chinyelu Kunz
/ in this article
01. The positive benefits of regular family mealtimes.
02. The importance of consistent and rhythmical mealtimes
03. Creating an inviting mealtime atmosphere
Mealtimes have the possibility to offer many wonderful benefits for the whole family! When we create regular times for meals together, we offer a time for pause, reflection, and connection. In our busy world, taking the time to sit together as a family and enjoy a homemade meal offers us an opportunity to model quiet and presence for our children all while sharing and enjoying a nourishing experience together!
When we come together at any meal with intention we create space for our family to break from the movement of the day. It can be easy as a parent to buzz thru the day disengaged in the motions of care. Yet, when we create times in our day steeped in ritual and consciously develop an experience of family togetherness our days can be uplifted! Mealtimes can be a moment of respite built into hectic times of the day. Our children will rest assured in the mealtime rhythm and learn to look forward to this time of reconnection where we can deepen our family relationships.
Food rhythms are essential when developing routines for small children. Creating rhymical days allows for our children to relax into other parts of the day and not just mealtimes. When looking to create healthy routines be sure to serve meals around the same time every day. It’s also helpful to be conscious of and offer ample time for movement and fresh air especially before lunch and dinner. There should be a natural breathing which occurs in your home rhythm just like our physical breathing. Moments where the child has an “in- breath” or times of focus and connection like reading a book or coloring, balanced with moments of an “out-breath” where your child can have a more external experience perhaps outside with large motor movements, freedom to explore, and the chance to be loud. Being sure that the schedule has a healthy and balanced breath and allowing for moments of inhalation and exhalation before lunch and dinner is one of the foundational pieces to creating peaceful mealtimes.
There are many other aspects to consider when creating a mealtime rhythm. Here are a few to contemplate:
- Set Table: Consciously set your table with a tablecloth or placemats, a seasonal bouquet, and a candle. Our intention sets the mood which will help to carry the gesture of the meal. Coming together to a festive table that is beautiful and inviting draws everyone in. It’s like an invitation to come, sit, and enjoy.
Have fun and include your child, perhaps it is their daily chore to set out the placemats or to freshen the centerpiece bouquet. When children are involved with the table setting, they may be more drawn to sit and delight in it with you.
- Food Rhythm: Food rhythms can be especially helpful for picky eaters. When children know what to expect at a meal it can create a more peaceful experience. Plan your meals out for the week. As an example consider: Monday’s dinner to be pasta with vegetables, Tuesday’s dinner Chicken Soup with homemade bread and Wednesday’s dinner Roasted vegetables with millet.
- Ritual: Having Rituals that surround mealtimes is a wonderful way to weave in moments of quiet and celebration. When you create rituals, which begin and end your meal then your child easily knows how to anticipate the length of time seated. Singing a gratitude blessing and lighting a candle draws everyone’s attention to our intention and begins to lay the foundation for conscious gratitude and reverence. These moral qualities are imperative for young children to experience so that as they grow in heart and mind, they understand how to cultivate them. When children experience these values emanate from their caregivers, they naturally grow within themselves from a place of depth. Rituals draws these qualities out of both the adult and child.
Once we set the tone by creating the space, we can model the behaviors we wish to see at the table. Our ritual will help to hold the child, give time for silence, and set the mood. If we ourselves can find inner quietude, thinking of nothing but the given task (lighting the candle, singing the blessing, serving, and enjoying the food) than we will model the qualities which we wish to develop within our children. What a joy as an adult to be given such an opportunity to practice mindfulness throughout our day!
The beautiful reality to this modeling and mindfulness practice is that we are living the expectations we wish to see in our children at mealtimes. If we’ve given no thought to the breath of the day and we rush from one thing to the next, we are not setting our children up to have the ability to find that sense of peace which you need to find so that you can sit still and enjoy a meal together. With your consciousness on yourself now the work of establishing what the expectation is done!
Meal time has the ability to cultivate so much in our children. It can sow lifelong seeds of gratitude, patience, and joy! It is also a wonderful time to practice manners. At the table we can easily model appropriate manners by using kind words like “please”, “thank you”, and “may I have”. This will develop dignity, plant seeds for appropriate use of kind words and elevate our mealtime experience!
It would be remiss not to mention the importance of consciously, preparing wholesome and organic foods to enjoy together at mealtimes. Growing children need healthy foods not only for physical fortitude but for mental clarity and spiritual health too! The foods we take in imbue us from the inside out and so it is important to consider this when choosing the foods, we will make and serve.
It’s also helpful to consider including our children in meal preparation as they love to help assemble meals by washing, chopping, stirring, or mixing when their caregiver is in the kitchen. When children help cook and assemble a meal they revel in their participation and often will try new foods simply because they helped. The love and attention that comes with homemade food is nourishing on so many levels!
Creating mealtime rhythms, rituals, and habits works simply because it is nourishing on so many levels! We nurture the physical body by thru rhythm and by serving healthy foods which in essence help our children to grow strong and provide sustenance for them throughout the day. With regular mealtimes we also offer a given time for conscious connection which supports our children emotionally. With the knowing purpose we bring to the table we are stimulating our children and encouraging mental growth. Most importantly, we are serving them soul food.
This embodied nourishment of joy, gratitude and reverence will serve to inspire the life sense of the young child, while gently helping them incarnate into the world around them. This type of nourishment reverberates like the ripples into a pond. Emanating out not only for the day but for the weeks and years to come!