With Mother’s Day this Sunday and the International Day of Families coming up on May 15, we’re thinking a lot about ways we can spend more time with the family – the answer? The almost-forgotten ritual of the family dinner. Sharing a meal together is practically human nature, yet these days – with studies suggesting that family dinners are 59% less common than they were when we, as parents, were growing up – being “too busy” or “too tired” or “too distracted” are all normal excuses not to eat as a family.

How often do you choose dinner around the TV over dinner around the table? Or find that your kids would much prefer to eat in their rooms than with their family?

It’s high time we make mealtimes fun again – here’s why.

Family dinners build strong relationships

Nightly dinners provide the perfect opportunity for you to catch up with your kids. Ask how their days were – and actually make them respond to you, beyond the usual “good” – and take interest in the things they bring up. Check out this list of family dinner conversation starters and give them a go at your next family dinner.

They can encourage healthy eating

Did you know that eating dinner as a family is associated with healthier eating patterns? One study found that children aged nine to 14 ate more veggies and less fried foods when they ate with their families – they also consumed more key nutrients like calcium, iron and fibre. It was also found that family dinners allowed for more opportunities to talk about nutrition and healthy foods, and encouraged children to try new things.

Eating with the family makes you happier

Science actually tells us that those who eat dinner with their family on a regular basis are more likely to be emotionally strong, have good manners and have improved mental health. This is particularly important for teenagers, who may use family dinner as a chance to communicate effectively about things that are bothering them, but is also important for young children who learn by observing.

More for less

While it is certainly easier to control your children’s portions when they eat at home – we’ve all been served a huge restaurant meal that we’ve felt pressured to finish – eating around the table at home actually offers more bang for your buck. One study found that home-cooked meals cost around half the price of an average restaurant meal.

Preparation is key

If you make family mealtime a priority, over time, you may find that your children are willing to start helping you out with preparing dinner, too. Not only will this give them essential cooking skills that they’ll need later in life, but it will also give your children a better understanding of exactly what is going into their meals and improve their hand-eye coordination, comprehension and fine motor skills, among other things.