The value of meals
For kids, routine family dinners have been linked to better behavior, improved physical and psychological health, and even good grades. Today's families recognize the value of mealtimes and over the last decade the percentage of families sharing dinner rituals has increased, reversing the declining trend of prior decades.
The majority of today's kids like to prepare or cook meals, and younger kids love to help and contribute. Today's dads are likely to cook or contribute as well, as many families collaborate on meal planning, selection and shopping, and most aspire to make or prep their meals together.
Kids in the kitchen
By and large, today's kids are foodies. Sure, there are still kids who will only eat a “beige pallet,” but overall, kids today are offered and embrace a more diverse range of options. Many kids like -- and actually request -- fruits and veggies, many of which are prepared and packaged to encourage kid appeal and convenience.
Many convergent trends are at work in the evolution of food preferences and selection. For one, today's kids and families share nearly everything, and parents strive to raise their children in an inclusive environment. Happily, messages regarding childhood obesity have begun to hit home. At the same time food shows and the seemingly endless sharing of photos and recipes on social networks have also played a role.
Mom as maestro
Today's moms are challenged with orchestrating nearly every aspect of their families' busy lives, plus endless household responsibilities. At the same time, more women are working than at any time in American history. Modern dads have assumed a larger role in meeting these challenges, and pay more attention to the needs of their families and raising kids.
Although moms do most of the shopping, it is often a shared responsibility with dads who also play a role. As busy as she may be, mom is more Supermom -- fully invested and engaged, shopping frequently at multiple retailers to best meet her family's needs, desires and budget concerns. Kids influence up to 80 percent of purchase decisions; typically Moms choose the category and kids choose the brand. Moms curate their cabinets with purchases from a mix of grocers, big-box and wholesale stores as well as specialty retailers, to allow their family to then shop the pantry.
Daily dinner preparation is an orchestrated event in itself, requiring coordination of schedules and collaboration as much as ingredients and appropriate time to prepare meals. Families often work out routines to make the most of these occasions. Any help to make it easier, and even fun, is more than welcome.
Today's kids are time-pressured and overscheduled, as is true of their parents. Breakfast is often a hurried grab-n-go before running for the bus. On average, today's school lunch is a mere twenty-minutes -- and for many this break comes very early or late in their day rather than at noon.
As a result, kids snack throughout the day as they dash to classes, before and between after-school activities -- engaging in four to six (or more) on-the-go eating occasions versus the structured, three main meals of prior times. Roughly half of kids claim to “make” their own lunches, although most in reality simply grab and assemble light lunch fare and snacks rather than truly “making” their lunches.
Most kids wish they had more free time to play and to have fun -- to be kids -- and their parents agree. Of course, parents wish they could spend more quality time with their kids too -- and have fun together. Brands that understand how to package their food products to make mealtime a more family-fun experience will surely win at the checkout counter.