Family dinner is one of the best ways to keep our kids healthy. Children who eat dinner with their families more than five times a week (along with good sleep and limited TV watching) are 40% less likely to be obese, according to a study in Pediatrics. More good news: the number of families eating together is increasing. 59% of families report eating dinner together at least five times a week, up from 47% in 1998.
Those numbers are compelling, but if you’re like me, it’s a monumental challenge to slow down enough to enjoy a peaceful conversation as a family over a healthy meal together. More often than not, Mom is rushing around the kitchen, kids are pit-stopping at the table for what feels like 30 seconds, there are constant negotiations about what they “have to eat”, and no time for conversation about the day. Lucky if Dad makes it home before bedtime. Not the perfect picture of quality family time at the dinner table.
Sometimes a small change can make a big difference. Whether both parents can make it home or not, commit to a regular dinnertime, serve your meal and sit together. Pause. Then start with a question (one that doesn’t require yes or no as an answer!). Posing open-ended questions is something that works really well for my kids. They bubble with excitement when asked about their perspective and theories instead of the conversation stopper, “How was your day?”. In a time when kids are bombarded with facts, and drilled to deliver the “right answer” on tests at school, it’s a welcome change to simply enjoy the journey of exploring an idea.
Here are a few questions to get you started. Follow each answer with another question. Remember: there’s no “correct” answer. The objective is to generate conversation and more questions!
- If you could pick a character from one of your favorite books to have dinner with, who would it be and why? What would you serve?
- If tomatoes are considered fruits because they have seeds, why is a banana a fruit? Why is a cucumber a vegetable? How would you find the answer (and you can’t use Google)?
- If you had a free ticket to go anywhere in the world, where would you go? How would you choose to get there?
For more ideas and a free set of printable dinner conversation starter cards visit www.crunchacolor.com/pages/printables. Enjoy the conversation!