Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dinnertime Can be a Fun Learning Experience

Throughout the holidays and beyond, make family meals a tradition in your home.

The holiday season will present many opportunities for families to gather together and share a meal. But for parents who are looking to promote learning and positive communication, family dinners should not be reserved for just festive occasions.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, eating dinner together as a family every night keeps the doors of communication open between parents and children. Furthermore, family dinners are also a perfect opportunity for moms and dads to teach children about eating healthy and making good food choices.

"Although hectic schedules have made family dinners a thing of the past, there is compelling evidence that sitting down at a table to share a meal is an ideal environment for family interaction," said Laura Olson, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy International. "In addition to discussing the school-related events, dinnertime is the perfect time to talk about healthy eating topics, such as the five food groups and the importance of having different colors of food on your plate."

Olson notes that families should aim to sit down to a meal most nights of the week for a minimum of 30 minutes. A home-cooked meal is not necessarily required; families can connect just fine over takeout served at the family dinner table.

For those parents wondering how they can make the most of family dinners, Olson offers the following tips:

· Be curious - Showing an interest in a child's likes and dislikes can result in the child feeling appreciated, respected and emotionally secure. Ultimately, the child experiences a surge in self-confidence, which can positively shape his or her developmental progress in the classroom.

· Get creative with conversation – Lively dialog is crucial to getting your kids to listen and share, so have all family members tell their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day. Not only will this give everyone a glimpse into each other's routine, but it will also help kids expand their vocabulary with new and intriguing words.

· Be specific in your questions – Instead of just inquiring about the day at school, ask about a particular book the child may be reading or an art project he or she may be crafting. This will help the child foster ideas and opinions about the assignment that he or she may not have previously considered.

· Let kids plan the menu – Getting children involved in the planning aspect of dinner gets them accustomed to thinking ahead and following step-by-step directions. Additionally, cooking is a great way to have them practice their math skills, such as adding fractions.

At Kiddie Academy, lunch is served in a family style dining environment, which offers children the opportunity to develop their “people” and communication skills. This approach mimics a family dinnertime experience and builds on Kiddie Academy’s character education concepts.
For more information about Kiddie Academy, please visit


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