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Family activities and meals | strengthening Spokane families.
Family Activities & Meals

  • "Your house is supposed to be fun; you live in it."  (Amy Schulz Johnson, daughter of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz)

  • Sitting down for a nightly meal is great for the brain, the body and the spirit.  Researchers found that for young children, dinnertime conversation boosts vocabulary even more than being read aloud to. For school-age youngsters, regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.  Other researchers reported a consistent association between family dinner frequency and teen academic performance.

    Children who eat regular family dinners
    also consume more fruits, vegetables, vitamins and micronutrients, as well as fewer fried foods and soft drinks. And the nutritional benefits keep paying dividends even after kids grow up: young adults who ate regular family meals as teens are less likely to be obese and more likely to eat healthily once they live on their own.

    In addition, a stack of studies
    link regular family dinners with lowering a host of high risk teenage behaviors parents fear: smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence, school problems, eating disorders and sexual activity.

    There are also associations
    between regular family dinners and good behaviors, not just the absence of bad ones....including positive moods in adolescents...and a more positive view of the future.

    So, dinner is the most reliable way
    for families to connect and find out what’s going on with each other. In a survey, American teens were asked when they were most likely to talk with their parents: dinner was their top answer.  Kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. This daily mealtime connection is like a seat belt for traveling the potholed road of childhood and adolescence and all its possible risky behaviors.

    Of course, the real power of dinners
    lies in their interpersonal quality. If family members sit in stony silence, if parents yell at each other, or scold their kids, family dinner won’t confer positive benefits. Sharing a roast chicken won’t magically transform parent-child relationships. But, dinner may be the one time of the day when a parent and child can share a positive experience – a well-cooked meal, a joke, or a story – and these small moments can gain momentum to create stronger connections away from the table.     (Source:  "The most important thing you can do with your kids?  Eat dinner with them," by family therapist Anne Fishel, The Washington Post, January 12, 2015) 
  • The more children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.   (The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York City)
  • Frequent family dinners are associated with higher academic performance. 

  • When dining together, families tend to eat healthier foods, resulting in children being less prone to obesity, or drug, tobacco, and alcohol usage.  Children experiencing regular family dinners are known to have better grades, a greater connection and trust with their parents, and a sense of acceptance.  There is also evidence of less tension within homes where families routinely eat together.  (Jeanie Lerche Davis's article on WebMD, Ten Reasons Why and Ten Shortcuts to Help Get the Familiy to the Table
What You Can Do

  • Spokane has countless activities for families to enjoy together.  See a list under Things to Do in Spokane County. 

  • Do things together as a family.  Don't allow the family to be distracted with too many activities outside the home and family.  See "Things to Do in Spokane" on this site. 
  • Have fun together.  Remember - Fun is not an event, it's an attitude!  
  • Provide hobbies for children to take up idle time.  
  • Enjoyable activities do not have to cost money.  Turn off the lights, open the curtains, and watch the lightning light up the sky.  Or, teach children how to mix colors using paint, crayons and play dough.
  • Tell stories to your children.
    • Learn to tell stories to children without the aid of a book, using your own words, and allowing children to use their imaginations to create their own images rather than looking at an artist's illustrations.  Be descriptive, and help children form illustrations in their brains.  Make impromptu storytelling a fun alternative to watching TV.  
    • Make storytelling into a game.  One person begins telling a story, and then passes a stick to the next family member, who continues the tale.  A unique story unfolds as the stick passes from person to person.  
    • Use puppets to tell a story, or to speak to children, and allow children to answer questions by speaking to the puppet.
    • Share personal stories with your children.  Parents can revive storytelling with their children by sharing stories from their family history or their own childhood.  People remember stories, not facts.  Children will likely remember their parents' stories far beyond the many toys you gave them.  Storytelling also bridges generational gaps, helping children connect with their parents and grandparents.  Family stories give children a sense of who they are, and where they come from.  Take a story that you are familiar with, and tell it in your own words.  In the end, your children will love that you spent time with them.  
    • Tell your children stories about when they were younger.  This tells your children they are important, special, and very loved.  
  • Learning activities for young children may include sorting items, matching socks, making cookies, pretzels or other simple foods.  
  • Teach older children to love and serve the younger children by reading to them, getting drinks, tying shoes, etc.   
  • Volunteer as a family in the community, where children will learn values such as empathy, tolerance, respect, and civic engagement.   
  • Share and teach your talents and skills (sewing, woodwork, gardening) with your children.
  • Allow your children to make a play house.  Use large boxes and let them create their own environment.  Help them with the hard parts, but don't be afraid to let children use paintbrushes, paint, hammers, nails, glue and low melt guns (with supervision).
  • Go on discovery walks and point out different types of plants, insects, flowers and animals.  Some collected items can go in a bag or basket.  Make crayon rubbings of plants, or make a nature scrapbook.
  • Support children in their school activities, music, art, sports, and other interests. 

  • Prepare your children to speak publicly, such as giving oral reports at school, and to conquer their fear of speaking in front of crowds.  Have them practice their entire presentation - every gesture and movement - in front of a mirror, or in front of you.  This will help them gain confidence in their speaking abilities and overcome their timid tendencies. 
  • Teach your children everything you can.  
  • Prepare your children to speak publicly, such as giving

  • Teach  your children life skills, such as how to...
Vote, and why it is important
Cook from scratch
How to do home repairs
Prepare an income tax return
Understand the importance of having a Will
Purchase a car and how to maintain it
Manage money
Work hard and be honest with their employer
Do things well rather than fast
Be a good example to others
Learn to not gossip or speak negatively about others
Experience failure and try again
Eat  healthy

Family Meals

  • Remember - What your children really want for dinner is YOU!  
  • Gather for Dinner.   Take time to eat meals as a family, to create family closeness.  Make dinner a priority and sacrifice other activities to be together.  It doesn't require extra time...it just takes coordination.  Make this a family tradition from the time your children are young.

  • When eating together as a family, turn off cell phones and other electronic devices, take a deep breath, and just enjoy each other. 

  • Make time during dinner or some other time, to ask your children about their day.  Ask them, “Did you learn something?  Did you create something?  Did you try your beset?  Were you a good friend?  Did you help someone?  Did someone help you?  Did you make the world better even in a small way?”  School and life teaches us more than how to read and write - it should be teaching us how to live each day so that each day the answer to at least one of these questions is “Yes!” 
  • Children learn best while they are eating and before they go to bed, according to research.  
  • Establish a dinner time when everyone can enjoy being together, and, whoever is late has to help with the dishes.
  • Family members who plan to eat elsewhere are still invited to sit with the family and participate in the dinner discussion, and often will not want to miss it.
  • Kids love to cook.  Involve the whole family in preparing healthy meals.  Teach children to shop for food and to read and understand food labels.  
  • Make mealtime a pleasant, relaxing time, not a time to discuss conflicts and things that are negative.  Family dinners are a relaxed way for parents to learn of their children's activities.  
  • Make dinner an event, not just a scramble for food.
  • Turn off the TV and eliminate phone calls.  They are not necessary for digestion.  
  • Make memories with food, such as a foreign meal and menu from another country.
  • Do meals backwards (dessert first), or have breakfast for dinner, and dinner for breakfast, or eat outside.  
  • Put various utensils in a paper bag (spaghetti fork, spatula, tongs, and chopsticks).  Each person closes their eyes and pulls out one item, and that is what he will eat his dinner with.
  • Have a favorite family meal on the weekend with a movie and popcorn to follow.  
  • Frequent family dinners provide parents a perfect opportunity to connect with their children, to hear about concerns or issues when they arise, and to send clear messages about expectations and rules.  
  • Learn what is going on with each family member.  Share experiences and show concern for each other.  
  • Ask each family member what they did that day, what they learned, what impressed them, what made them happy/sad, and what they did to help someone else.
  • Take turns telling the most interesting thing about your day, or the one new thing that happened in their life today.  Hearing stories from each other will bring your family together
  • Involve children in meal planning and preparing nutritious meals.  
  • Teach children some cooking skills.  Teach them how to cook something, praise them, and let it be their thing.  
  • Educate while eating.  Play soft music, tapes, teach or discuss spelling words, synonyms, crime and consequences, addictions, etc.  
  • Discuss current events throughout the world, along with a map of the world. 
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