Family mealtime may feel like madness sometimes. In modern times, families are busier. The kids are in more activities, and parents work long hours. Preparing and sharing a family meal takes time, but it’s worth it to sit down together at least a few times each week to enjoy eating together.

Meals are great times to talk with your children and model behavior surrounding food and manners at a table. Your children can also learn about appropriate eating habits and even family traditions around the dinner table. Families who eat together often eat better, and you want to make this time enjoyable.

If your family mealtimes feel rushed, chaotic, or you just can’t appreciate them, here is how you can enjoy family mealtime more with these six tips.

1. Set Aside Specific Meal Times
Keep your breakfast, lunch and dinner times at a regular time every day. Put them in your schedule or on your calendar, too. When there is a regular time for everything, more family members are likely to show up.

Plus, specific mealtimes can help minimize snacking between meals, so your children will be hungry when they sit down at the table. Of course, not everyone will make it to these meals every day, but they know when they can count on dinner to be ready.

2. Involve Your Kids in Preparing Meals
Gett your kids involved in preparing for family meals—it can significantly help with fussy eaters. They can help choose what goes into a meal, making them more prone to eat it once it’s ready. This also can encourage them to try new foods, like nutritious leafy greens, whole grains and new proteins.

Older kids can help cook or find new recipes for the family to enjoy. When you all sit down to eat, they can be proud that they helped with the meal and will enjoy eating it, too.

3. Catch Up during Family Meals
Use family mealtimes to catch up on everyone’s lives and talk to one another. It’s a great way to keep up with what everyone is doing in their busy lives. Have everyone take turns sharing something good and bad about their days.

Older children and teenagers may have an easier time communicating with everyone. Younger children who can’t form sentences may get frustrated, so ease their frustration by asking them yes or no questions about their day. This will make mealtime a social time and enjoyable.

4. Allow More Time for Meals
Do you feel like you can’t enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner because it’s rushed? Try extending your time for meals. Many parents and families don’t take enough time to sit down and eat. The rush can get everyone overly anxious, especially if you have somewhere to be after eating.

Give you and your kids at least 15 minutes to eat. Children often take longer to eat since they’re developing and have smaller mouths! Providing that extra time also gives them a chance to try new foods. It’s a great time to establish good eating habits, too.

5. Meal Prep for Busier Nights
Meal prepping takes a little bit of extra work one day every week, but it makes the rest of the week so much easier to handle since you won’t have to worry about cooking meals every day. When you meal prep, you prepare your meals ahead of time or at least part of the meals ahead of time so you can spend less time cooking and more time sitting down to enjoy a meal.

You don’t have to meal prep for every day of the week. Focus on prepping for your busier nights, like when you have to work later or when the kids have after-school activities. This also helps you make healthier choices because you have food ready to eat at home rather than stopping at a fast-food restaurant.

6. Get Creative
When you have a little bit of extra time, explore creative ways to make mealtime more fun and engaging for your family. Planning for a fun breakfast or dinner can give the family something to look forward to, making mealtime more enjoyable for everyone. Below are some creative ways to make mealtime more interesting:

  • Make breakfast for dinner and let the kids choose toppings for their pancakes or waffles.
  • Create a build-your-own pizza station where everyone gets their own personalized pizza.
  • Use a theme for mealtime, like foods from different countries or the kids’ favorite Disney movie.
  • Have a mid-day picnic in the park or your backyard.
  • Invite a friend or family member over for a meal.
  • Host a dinner and a show where you watch a movie during mealtime.

Breaking up the mundane mealtime schedule with fun events like these can help keep your kids interested, and mealtime will be fun!

With these tips, you can enjoy family mealtimes even more. You and your kids will begin to look forward to times you can spend together around the table.