Family Meal Time
The many benefits of sitting down at the table together for a meal.
Researchers have been studying the importance of family mealtime for at least 25 years. You might be interested to hear just some of the MANY benefits of family dinners they’ve discovered.
Recent studies link regular family mealtimes with all kinds of tangible and intangible benefits such as improved parent-child relationships and fewer behavioral problems. Mealtime conversations have been tied to improved literacy. In talking together, your young child hears you speak fluently, which helps them develop their own understandable speech, and your older child develops “prior knowledge” of the world which they bring into their reading studies. “Prior knowledge” has long been know to be a main factor in increasing a child’s reading comprehension.
Kids who eat at the family table often carry higher grade-point averages and exhibit resilience and self esteem. In teens, we find that lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression come with eating together as a family. Family dinners also nourish ethical thinking. In today’s times, when we know our kids are hearing some very questionable things from our society, we have a chance to get our kids’ thinking “back on track.” Meals are where your kids learn your family and cultural values. Regular conversations about where you saw God at work today can deepen your child’s own faith.
Here are a few benefits we teachers can confirm from our experience with kids: Kids who sit down to eat with their parents learn and exhibit better table manners, know how to use utensils (which leads to better developed motor skills), and are more likely to try new foods—even if they’ve never seen them before.
Family meals don’t have to be fancy or elaborate. In fact, eating at home will usually save you money, so in this economy that’s another real benefit. Rather, it’s the bonding and teaching you can do at the table that is of utmost importance. You can teach your kids all kinds of “stuff” about LIFE when you sit down to eat together. Your young child needs your focused time and conversation to develop academically and your modeling of eating healthy foods to develop physically. For ideas of how to fit family mealtime into your schedule and make it fun, check out thefamilydinnerproject.org
Speech Sound Disorders and Literacy
A speech sound disorder (SSD) refers to a difficulty with perceiving and producing sounds. Before children are even ready to read, write, or spell, they develop phonological awareness. They begin to understand how words contain sounds and how these sounds are represented by letters. These critical skills become the foundation they need for reading and writing. In turn, reading and writing (along with listening and speaking) will be the method of learning for the rest of a child’s life.
If your child has trouble distinguishing sounds and matching sounds to letters, he/she may struggle to decode or sound out words. They will almost certainly have trouble spelling words too, because they are not hearing sounds correctly. For example, if a child cannot hear the difference between /t/ and /k/, he/she may write “tup” instead of “cup.” To have the ability to read and write, problems with speech need to be addressed. The good news is, a lot can be done for your child!
Focus on communication when your child is a BABY. Talk, sing, and encourage imitation of sounds. Start reading to your baby immediately (and never stop!) Use age-appropriate books that encourage him/her to look at the pictures while you read the words. Keep things simple, but avoid “baby talk,” which can affect your child’s perception of sounds.
Talk your way through the day. Use everyday situations to build your child’s literacy. Explain what you’re doing as you cook a meal or do some other task. Point out objects around the house or out the car window. Instead of handing your phone to your child while you are grocery shopping, name each food you put in the cart and talk with your child about them. Show them words on the product and, next time, play a game to see if they can recognize some of the labels again.
Early identification is key. One guideline states that parents should understand about 50% of a child’s speech at 2 years, 75% by age 3, and by the age of 4, even people who don’t know the child should be able to understand most of his/her speech. If your young child is hard to understand, start seeking help immediately. Take your child to one of the Child Find screenings held twice a year in the public schools. They can help you get in touch with an SLP. Ask your doctor or dentist to check if your child has a short frenulum (the fold beneath the tongue), which limits tongue movement and thus affects the ability to form sounds correctly. Get your child’s hearing tested regularly.
Work at home to build your child’s speech skills. Your child’s teacher and your SLP will both give you exercises you can do with your child to develop their speech and literacy at home. Make it a priority, since literacy is the foundation of learning.
READ, READ, and READ some more to your child!