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On Dec. 3 we are recognizing the annual “Dining In” for healthy families Family & Consumer Sciences day. We invite you to find a day that week to dine in together with your family or friends.

This day is an opportunity to make a commitment as a family to making and eating a healthy meal together — whether it is Dec. 3 or some other day in the beginning of December. We often have meals together during the holidays, but busy lives and schedules lead to many families not having regular meal times together. This is an opportunity to make a commitment to sitting down, having a meal and perhaps even making it a “device free” dinner. Try to plan the meal as a family — this can be a learning opportunity for kids of all ages. Have everyone take part in making the grocery list, finding recipes or getting the kids to help in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up.

Perhaps you have heard of our NDSU Extension Family Table Challenge over the past year. There are several resources, newsletters and opportunities to win prizes. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable.

You may be thinking, we are a busy family and it is just not realistic. Or, what is so important or powerful about family meals? Sharing a family meal provides an experience that touches all of our senses — sight, touch, taste, smell and listening to warm laughter or good conversation. Family meals help provide a regular, consistent opportunity to create a shared and meaningful experience. Research has shown that regular and meaningful family meals offer a large variety of benefits to both children and parents. For one, we tend to eat healthier when sitting down and dining in versus eating out. Children find comfort and build strong ties to family when time is spent together. This has been shown to decrease risk-taking behaviors. In two studies, 79 percent of teenagers indicated that they very much enjoyed eating meals together with their family. We can’t underestimate the power of face-to-face family time for children and youth of all ages.

We have some great “conversation starter” cards in our office and they can be downloaded on the Family Table website. With the conversation starters it is fun to hear your kids’ responses, but also for your children to learn more about you. Here are a few to try out as you celebrate “Dining In.”

• If you could choose, what would you have for your birthday dessert?

• Name something that makes you mad and something that makes you grateful.

• If you wrote a book, what would it be about?

• Describe your day in three words.

For more information about Dining In, visit www.aafcs.org/fcsday/home. For more information about the Family Table Challenge or other Extension resources, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/familytable. You can contact Liz Larson at the Parent and Family Resource Center, 701-667-3342 or email Liz.Larson@ndsu.edu.

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Liz Larson is the parent educator for the NDSU Extension Parent Resource Center Region VII. Larson has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Luther College in Iowa and started with Extension in 2016.

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