January 16, 2013

Reading at meal times and why it’s my new favorite routine

My son at breakfast this morning. Ready to read some Peter Pan!

Our house at meal time is probably like most typical households with small kids – we cook up delightful meals that my husband and I think are tasty and overall pretty nutritious. And then we spend most of our meal negotiating with our kids to eat it. Or if we aren’t in the mood – we make two meals – one for our kids and one for us (I know that’s horrible and we do this rarely, but still it happens). Sigh.

After reading on Money Saving Mom’s blog (I adore her!) that she often reads to her kids during meal times – I fell in love with the idea. I thought it sounded like the perfect way to get more reading time in with the kids, so we started the routine of reading during the meals the first part of the year.

Fast forward two weeks and I love it. I picked up some kid’s chapter books at Goodwill for under $1 each. You can also checkout books from the library (just be careful they stay clean of food). During dinner time my husband and I take turns reading to the kids – so we’re both able to take turns eating. For breakfast or lunch, I’ll usually eat my meal first and then read.

I’ve found the kids are so engaged in the book and the story that they eat their meals with much less resistance! This was a surprising perk – one I did not expect! Reading has become a joyful meal-time distraction and because they so badly want to hear the story, they are not arguing about what they should eat or how many more bites they need to take. I had a sinking suspicion that our food battles were not actually over the flavor of the food, but merely an opportunity to create a little dinner time drama and have a minor power struggle. The reading has nearly eliminated this all together!

In addition to fewer food protests from the kids – I love the dialogue and discussions we’re having over the dinner table. For example, Peter Pan used the word unusual – what does that word mean? Or what do you think will happen next? Or we will stop and talk about what we just read as a family – so a little reading comprehension lesson. I don’t homeschool, so I’m no expert on that – but I’m excited about building a learning opportunity into our meal times. And showing my kids that reading is important!

It’s been a welcome addition to our routine. We are already halfway through Peter Pan, reading one or two chapters per meal time. I have a couple other chapter books (with pictures) waiting in the queue and I hope the routine of reading during meal times continues to be such a positive experience for our family.

I’d love to hear from you – Do you read during meal times? Do you have favorite chapter books you’d like to recommend (our kids are 5 and 2). Have you started any new routines this year that are working for you?

Amazon has what’s called Dover Thrift Editions – they are popular books for only $1 – $3 a book!

Disclosure – Reading during meal times has worked great for our family but I realize it may not be for everyone. Since our kids are only 5 and 2, and home with me most all day – the “how was your day” conversation that you might have with a school-age kid doesn’t get us too far into dinner. 🙂 I don’t pretend to be a parenting expert, just sharing a little bit of our life with you. It’s been a great way for us to bond, learn and read as a family!


    Leave your comments here...


  1. What a great idea! My 3 year old is a poky eater, and we are always finished eating long before she is. This would be perfect for us to do, very easy to incorporate into our mealtimes. Thanks!

  2. We are reading Peter Pan at meal times right now too! My 4 yr old to 8 yr olds love it. The new words they learn and subjects brought up are cool. Sometimes though I just want to eat. Do you eat after they do?

  3. We don’t read at meals times, but since we homeschool, we read after lunch. The first chapter book I read to my son (when he was 5) was Charlotte’s Web. Stuart Little would be a fun book, too! While not a chapter book, we have a big book of Curious George stories, those would probably be just long enough for a meal…those stories were some of my son’s favorites! The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary would also be a fun one and when your youngest is a little bit older, the Ramona books. Ok, I could go on forever, must be the teacher in me and maybe because my mom is a librarian…I LOVE books and especially children’s books! 🙂

  4. I homeschool and also love the Money Saving Mom, so we recently changed up our day some to include reading at the dinner table. We also have loved it for the reasons you mentioned. I just want to suggest being sure to read them unabridged versions of books if possible. Dover thrift editions in particular often offer cheap abridged versions and I think your children will benefit much more from the rich literature and the “whole” story if you can get your hands on them. A few suggestions: Pinocchio, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Charlotte’s Web, The Little House series (boys love it too!), The Boxcar Series… to name a few.

  5. It is a great idea indeed. I also read to my twins at meal times and it is a perfect time for reading aloud.

    Kids love it … and it is a perfect time for some family bonding!

    Read Aloud Dad

  6. We read to our 21 1/2 month old and have for about a month or two. We also sometimes do flash cards. Like you said it is just enough of a distraction to get her to eat (but sometimes she forgets to chew!) She is obsessed with Monster’s Inc so we usually read one of our Mike & Sully books.

  7. Reading aloud isn’t just for kids. My husband and I enjoy selecting a novel and taking turns reading aloud to each other.

  8. Heather H says:

    We have been doing this for a while ourselves and love it too! We have one 3 year old daughter. Currently for breakfast we are reading Big Thoughts for Little People,by Kenneth Taylor. It’s a book about the alphabet and how each letter works back to the teachings in the Bible…kinda like a morning devotional for her. I get about 2 letters in a day and then she is done after we have chatted about the pictures, etc. At lunchtime we are currently reading Charlotte’s Web, which may be an older children’s book, but we are having fun and make animal sounds (with our mouth’s empty, of course!) We haven’t really ventured with dinnertime yet, but we do discuss with Daddy what we read earlier in the day. Love this routine!

  9. I love this idea! Does anyone have suggestions of books that my 8 year old daughter and 12 year old son might both enjoy?

  10. What a great idea! Can’t wait to try it!

  11. We recently heard that Adventures in Odyssey has a free radio show episode every day. We have started listening to that and my 6 yr old loves it! There is also one called Jonathan Park that includes science but is for a little bit older kids.

    • My kids listened to some of the Adventures in Odyssey podcasts on a roadtrip where we stopped in Colorado Springs and went to the Focus on the Family Welcome Center- it’s like a free children’s museum that’s based entirely on the Adventures in Odyssey series. It was a fun way to spend an hour or so and break up our trip a bit!

  12. I just started doing this with my kiddos (ages 5 and 2 1/2) for 2013 (one of our goals) beacuse of Money Saving Mom and I have to say, we’ve had the same awesome results here! There is much less compalaining about food and they are willing to keep eating so they can keep listening. Plus, it distracts the adults too so that we don’t pester them to eat. Love, love, love!

  13. My grandparents would take us kids camping and would always pick up a chapter book to read to us every night just before bedtime. We loved it! This is one of my favorite memories of camping with them. I am doing it with my grandchildren by reading James Herriot’s book “All Creatures Great & Small

  14. I just picked up this idea, too! I’m a former school and public librarian and I read to my kids ALL them time but I had never thought of reading at meal times. They love it! It’s really been a good thing for us because as my kids get older (my oldest is freshman) it’s getting harder and harder to find time to all read together with homework, sports and school activities. We still manage to eat dinner together most nights so this has become the perfect time for us. Love this idea!

  15. I have a 5 year old and 1 1/2 year old who love story time, this is such a great idea I can’t wait to try it! 🙂

    We too have the dinner time dilemma…which sometimes turns out to feel like we are short order chefs! lol
    I have seen this lady’s recipes on tv and they look great- one meal for the adults and one for the kids (I have yet to try one, it’s on my to-do list!):


  16. We don’t read at meals, but I have a recommendation for you. There is a series of books by Betty Birney about a classroom hamster named Humphrey. The books are told from his perspective and are about how he helps his friends in the class. I LOVE reading these books out loud to my son. They are very funny and very sweet. The library would probably have many of them and they really don’t have to be read in order. 🙂

Send this to a friend