How Eating Dinner as a Family Improves Critical Thinking

Mormon Family Dinner

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Growing up, my family sat down for dinner together seven days a week. My grandfather was a chef, so dinnertime was always a treat. Five and seven course meals were the norm back then. My grandfather’s day revolved around meal preparation. There were seven of us at the dinner table, so making dinner was a time consuming process. He would  start dinner preparation after lunchtime and soon our house would be filled with the wonderful aromas of ginger, garlic and fragrant spices.  These days, families are sitting down to dinner less and less. It is estimated that only 10% to 25% of families eat together 4 days a week. This is leaving our children at a disadvantage – especially when it comes to critical thinking. Outside of an educational setting, what better place is there than the dinner table for a child to practice, exercise, and experiment with critical thinking skills?

Case in point. I happened to be on vacation for the last week and was able to spend even more meals with my two boys. At lunchtime today, my youngest son asked if he could have some juice. In a minute’s time, my youngest grabbed a juice box and began pouring it into a cup he had just used for milk. In mixing the juice with milk, he was thrilled to create a concoction that tasted like a smoothie.

Seeing his younger brother experiment, my older son decided to mix his own smoothie. However, a small sip of his version had my oldest son exclaiming his beverage was “disgusting.”

My older son asked to taste his brother’s drink and was surprised that the same two ingredients could taste so different. This led us to into an exercise in critical thinking and problem solving. After both boys confirmed they used the same ingredients, I asked what was different about their drinks. My oldest son answered, “The color is different. My drink is lighter.”

This observation took us down the path of discussing color theory. Recently, the boys helped me mix up different colored frosting, so experimenting with color was fresh in their minds. In thinking about what caused his drink to appear lighter, my older son realized he must have added more milk to his smoothie than his brother.  To test out this hypothesis, he took another sip of each drink, then confirmed by asking his brother how much milk he used. Not surprisingly, my younger son used less milk – a few drops rather than a quarter cup.

If not for spending a meal together, my boys may have missed out on an experiential learning opportunity. Now, both understand a recipe is made up of  ingredients, measures, and directions.

Meal time is always interesting. Today, smoothies…tomorrow, who knows!

Taking the time to sit down to dinner as a family has rich rewards. Families can give their children an advantage by spending meal time together. Read WebMd’s 10 Reasons Why Family Dinners are Important to learn more.

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2 Responses to How Eating Dinner as a Family Improves Critical Thinking

  1. Bon Crowder says:

    I can’t wait until Daughter is old enough to have those kinds of conversations.

    In the meantime I notice things at the dinner table and say them out loud. Hopefully she’s getting a little of it. I know at least she’s getting the positive “dinner time is also learning time” feel.

    And Husband gets to see a little more of my thinking style.

    Here’s one of the things she did with the salt and pepper shakers (that she broke a week later):

    Thanks for sharing your story!

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