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Newsletter: July 2016

Family Dinner: Boredom Buster, Brain Builder

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July Newsletter


Ah, summer vacation. Everyone’s relaxing and having fun…and then it hits you. That first “I’m bored!” You don’t want to start piling on the activities until your summer schedule is as packed as the school year, but you can’t help wondering if you’re doing enough. And are the kids doing enough? Are they stimulated and challenged? Should they be?

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone! The concerns are only made larger in parents’ minds by the notion of the so-called “summer slide.” According to some estimates, kids can lose as much as 2 months of attained academic achievement during the summer break from school. Some families feel so much pressure to keep the slide at bay that they hire tutors or schedule mandatory “worksheet time” into the day — all during the time of year when kids (and adults) want to be relaxing and having fun.

What should you do? First of all, relax, enjoy the summer and keep having those regular family dinners!

While learning loss is a real concern for some kids, most families can keep the summer slide minimal by keeping everyone happy and well-rested, so they’re more ready to learn and retain information when the opportunity arises. There’s no need for formal academics — you can use your family dinner table as a perfect platform to sneak in a little brain power (and avoid total boredom) by trying out a few strategies that will keep everyone happy and healthy in body, mind and spirit.

  • Research has proven that family dinners have a wealth of benefits, many of which are linked to academics:
  • Kids who eat regular family dinners have higher grades
  • Regular family meals boost vocabulary and early literacy skills even more than reading aloud
  • Family dinners are associated with higher self-esteem and resiliency, as well as better peer relationships (and happy, social kids are likely to be more ready to learn)
  • Teens who eat regular family dinners tend to have a lower risk of drug and alcohol use, teen pregnancy, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and violent behaviors

Learn more about the Benefits of Family Dinners »

From playing character charades to making meals based on your favorite books, there are dozens of fun and engaging ways to connect reading and eating. Dr. Anne Fishel shares some of her favorites on our blog.

Read: Want Your Kids to be Better Readers? Eat Dinner Together »

No, family dinner probably won’t be a natural skill booster for your high-school calculus student, but cooking has always been well-known as a fun and easy way to build practical math skills. The littlest chefs can count and sort (one of our team members used to ask her preschoolers to make “portion piles” of certain numbers of asparagus spears, cherry tomatoes, and other easily handled vegetables). As they grow, measuring, weighing, time skills, money skills, fractions, conversions and mathematical operations like doubling a recipe can all be incorporated into the process of planning, shopping and cooking meals together.

Watch our friend April Hamilton and TFDP Executive Director Lynn Barendsen get kids into the kitchen in this hands-on cooking demo »

Having meaningful conversation at the dinner table can be its own brain booster, especially if you find ways to delve into questions and topics that fascinate family members. Try bringing a news story, cool new fact or philosophical question with you to the table to spark dialogue. Or you might make dinnertime family game time by setting a stack of trivia cards alongside the plates. One of our team members loves to let her boys sit down with their Harry Potter trivia questions — not only does it keep dinnertime fun and engaging, it also usually leads to clearing the dishes to one side and spending more quality time together!

Check out this recent Conversation of the Week for some inspiration to help you talk about politically and historically significant events »

This month, we’re featuring the Bublitz family from Massachusetts. Andrea and Matthew are figuring out a family dinner routine that works for their young children, 3-year-old William and 2-year-old Hank. Andrea says, “Many times I will make a meal only to have the kids refuse it, which sends me back into the kitchen to make another meal that they will eat. It’s exhausting making two meals every night!” We loved learning more about the Bublitz family and how they’re dealing with this very familiar dinnertime challenge.

Read more about the Bublitz family and how they’re meeting their family dinner goals »


July Newsletter-Food

Make the most of summer fruits with a nostalgic dessert recipe from Executive Director Lynn Barendsen.

Peach Melba »


July Newsletter-Fun

Challenge vocabulary skills with a round of Fictionary!

Fictionary »


July Newsletter- Conversation


Keep kids’ social skills sharp during the summer break with a conversation about respecting differences. Download a printable version »