Between school, work, after-school activities, homework, baths and bedtime routines, it’s a miracle we even remember to eat dinner some nights. The Family Dinner Project, however, is aiming to make dinner a more frequent gathering and bonding time for families. Kids of every age benefit from having this daily family ritual: the conversations can help younger kids boost their vocabulary, and regular family dinners have been linked with lower obesity rates for kids, stronger academic performance, increased self-esteem and a reduction in anxiety and depression. And for those of us concerned about what our kids are eating (or more likely, what healthy stuff they ARE not eating), having dinner together regularly is also associated with increased intake of fruits and veggies.
It’s not simply the kids who benefit: parents can feel like they are a part of their children’s daily routines and, among new parents, establishing a family dinner ritual can even help marriage satisfaction levels. The Family Dinner Project has plenty of resources and ways to inspire families to make mealtime into family time: with tips on how to get kids involved with food prep and keep them at the table longer, age-appropriate conversation starters, plenty of recipe ideas and family stories highlighting how individual families are making the project work for them. In my house, we have a no tech-at-the-table rule and to get my kiddos to hang out after scarfing their food, we discuss our “highs” and “lows” of the day. I’ve been inspired to mix up our mealtime routine, however, with the dinner games suggested by The Family Dinner Project, and I look forward to when my little ones are big enough that we can tackle some of the deeper issues in the world around us, just as I remember debating with my own parents and sisters growing up.
The Family Dinner Project knows that it isn’t possible for every family to eat together every night, but setting a goal to eat dinner as a family several times a week and to savor those mealtimes is a reasonable way for families to come together and try new foods, catch up on each other’s lives, and provide benefits to everyone’s social, mental, and physical well-being. We all have to eat, so why not eat with our family members and nourish our bodies, minds and family bonds at the same time?
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