If you are looking for ways to bring your scattered family together, look no farther than the dining room table!
When I was first teaching foods classes to 7th graders in the 1990s, I would ask my students how many of them had regular dinners as a family. About 40% raised their hands. I asked the rest to describe their dinner regimen. I would get answers that ranged from, “We make our own,” to “Mom leaves pots on the stove and we take what we want, then go watch TV.” Say what? The 12-14-year-old children were left on their own during the most valuable part of the day? As I thought about these answers, I could see that the students who had regular dinners with their families got better grades, were more attentive during class, and had a more congenial personality than the students who were left to their own defenses. And I’m not alone, many studies have been done on the benefits of eating meals together as a family. Click HERE for one example from Michigan State University.
Fast forward a few years to my own family. I vowed to have regular meals with my husband and kids, but life got in the way and I began to see what was going on with the 60% of my students who didn’t have regular family dinners together. Soccer practice, basketball games, piano lessons, and a myriad of other obligations got in the way of my plan. So, I developed a new rule – everybody would be home at 6pm every Sunday for a formal dinner in the dining room. The kids took turns choosing their favorite meal and helped prepare it for the family. What a wonderful two hours that was during the busy week!
Fast forward another twenty years and I’m at the end of my 25-year career teaching Family Consumer Sciences. I asked my students the same question – How many of you have regular family dinners with your family? An astonished 20% raised their hands. Say what? The percentage of families who regularly ate dinner together had declined dramatically. When I asked the remaining 80% the same question I asked in the 90s, I got many of the same reasons – too busy, not enough time for Mom to cook, etc. etc.
Now that I’m retired, I decided to create a family cookbook – it is a family cooking experience more than it is a collection of unique recipes to try and pass by the most discriminating of 10-year-old eaters! I knew that when children take ownership of a project, whether it is preparing a family meal or organizing a family game night, that child becomes more engaged. I decided that bucking the system might be too much too soon, so I focused only on the holidays throughout the year for my first book. I figured that one family meal a month would be better than no family meal ever. I also added the concept of a friendly stuffed bear who would help children to learn patience while they learned how to cook and become a valuable member of their family. What could be better? (Well, maybe a return to the 19th century when everyone at together as a family because they had no choice!)
So, I challenge you to take a chance on my system. In each cookbook, the recipes are arranged so that each member of the family, from Grandma to the littlest child who can stir or pour in ingredients. Everyone takes turns following the recipe. Everyone participates in the preparation. So when the meal or the snack is ready, everyone is eager to taste the food and share their experiences, not only with the preparation, but with their memories throughout the week, perhaps. And here’s a bonus – the kids put away their technology while you prepare your food!
Order a signed copy of Chef Cappy’s Kitchen – STEM facts and healthy recipes for family fun – Holiday Favorites Edition at www.chefcappyskitchen.com There you can also order a handmade stuffed bear or handmade hand puppet to go with the book.