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Because childhood should be simple ...

Family Dinner Night

Cook Children's is excited to offer a series of programs to help strengthen families in our community. We know that a child's overall health depends on how secure they feel and what's happening around them. By giving solid information and suggestions, we hope to turn good family time into great family time!

One of our initiatives is Family Dinner Nights. The goal of this program is to bring families back to the table for mealtime.

Getting started and making it work

Family dinners don't have to be complicated or fancy. In fact, simple, cheap meals can be planned for even the busiest nights. Early planning is the key to success. By taking a few moments to create a meal plan and grocery list before heading to the store, you can solve many of the last-minute challenges of what to eat. Shopping on a less busy day and making it part of your routine will help. Look at the week ahead and figure out which nights the whole family can sit down together for a meal. Let everyone have input in the menus, giving each person a chance to choose a favorite meal.

When it's time to sit down to eat, make sure to turn off the television and keep cell phones and other electronic devices away from the table. Make dinner time special and really focus on connecting with each other.

Overcoming challenges

What's for dinner?

It's good to have a few go-to meals that can be prepared quickly and easily when time is short. A nutritious, crowd pleaser doesn't have to be more than 20 minutes away.

Enlist help from the whole family to make quick work of dinner preparations. Make chores age appropriate. Smaller children can set the table and help gather ingredients. Older ones can stir pots, prep ingredients and help with clean up.

Prepare larger portions and freeze them for a quick meal to use on especially busy nights.

How was your day?

Getting your children to say more than just a few words during dinner conversation can be tricky. Often the response to this common dinner questions is "fine" or "good." This makes it hard to figure out how things are going in your children's world.

On our Web site, we have a number of conversation starting questions you can use to learn more about your child's friends and what's important to your child. Some are fun and playful, while others are meant to be deeper and provide perspective. Keep conversations positive and save discussions about specific homework assignments and messy bedrooms for another time. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak.

The rewards

Children grow so fast and they're always learning new things. Mealtime is the perfect time to find out what they're doing and how they're changing. Starting this important tradition at a young age will make your relationship with your child much stronger and more open. Sharing this special time will continue to pay off as your child gets older and spends more time away from you and your constant supervision.

The benefits are far reaching

Studies show that children in families that regularly eat together are more likely to:

Additionally, children are less likely to:

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