Studies have shown that sharing dinner as family can help kids form good eating habits and boost their self esteem. But by sitting down to eat a meal with your children, you can also teach your kids the art of communication. Celebrity chef and mom Cat Cora gives Away We Grow host Diane Mizota her tips for helping kids open up at the dinner table.
When not co-hosting the Bravo series "Around the World in 80 Plates" or working on her many culinary-related projects, Cora is with her four sons. As a kid, Cora had dinner with her parents every single night of the week. Her memories of that special time with her mom and dad clearly influence her desire to carry on the tradition in her own family. She says, "I knew my parents cared. I knew that they were involved. I knew that they loved me. It does really make a difference to gather, and it gets to be quality time."
But Cora's secret weapon to get her boys to the table starts before dinner when she serves up an appetizer or two so her kids aren't starving at dinnertime. "Whether it's some carrots, a little bit of snap peas or something with a low-fat ranch dressing or something to dip it in. It kind of tides them over before dinners," says Cora. "Plus it's a great way to get them to the table and everybody talks about their day, or maybe they're drawing a picture or maybe they're doing homework."Once the meal is underway, Cora suggests that parents ask their kids specific questions instead of open-ended queries that usually garner one-worded responses. "We like to say, what did you draw today? What friend did you play with today? Ask them very specific questions because when you ask a 5 year old a 6 year old, even a 9 year old, a very open-ended question, they're gonna say, 'I don't know. It was okay."
Cora also recommends that parents infuse family dinnertime with unique traditions from their own childhoods. "I think it's cool to kind of make traditional nights, you know, in the household. Right now the kids' big night is Friday night because it's pizza and movie night in our house...we make that really fun for them."
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