Do your children eat dinner with you?

Eating an early dinner in Takapuna one evening.

Eating an early dinner in Takapuna one evening.

I was brought up almost always eating dinner with my whole family, and without thinking it through too much I always imagined Amelie would do the same. Right now, however, her bedtime is between 6.30-7pm and by the time we're all home, unpacked and ready for the next day, there usually isn't time to eat together and still get Amelie in bed on time.

Thankfully, this doesn't mean it's always impossible. Occasionally we cook an extra meal over the weekend and have it for dinner on a weeknight; sometimes we have leftovers, and there are always weekends of course. On these nights, H1 and I eat earlier than we'd prefer, but it's worth it to get the time to eat with Amelie. I want her to learn that eating together is the norm, and that it's a lovely way to spend time with people you care about. I also find that she eats a lot better when she's eating with us – she's less likely to play with her food or throw it everywhere, and apparently our meals are consistently more appetising than hers (even when it's the exact same food). It's not unknown that we pretend to take spoonfuls from our own plates to give her so she'll eat it.

I also think it's best for her to eat the same range of foods as we do, and not to restrict types of food from her (as long as it's reasonably healthy). This has resulted in a couple of interesting situations – some tears over chorizo, when she realised she didn't like it as much as she thought she would when she demanded it; olives all down the front in a similar situation – and some surprising ones (like the time she decided she loved the saffron yoghurt in this recipe!) We try to trust her to work out for herself what works and what doesn't for her. This part's not too hard, fortunately – we save a small amount of our dinner so she can eat it the next night; we go out to eat a reasonable amount and ignore the kid's menu; and, of course, we try to get that time to eat together fairly regularly. It's really nice for all of us (in fact, it was one of the things I listed as needing more of in 2018 to keep me happy) and I'm grateful that it works well for us now.

How about you? Do you eat as a family, or do the children eat separately? Are weekends treated differently from weekends? Is it important enough to you that you compromise on things like your preferred dinner time to make it happen, or would you rather wait until your children are older and have a later bedtime?