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Sunday family dinner

Food just seems to taste better when eaten in a social atmosphere of love and unity. Sometimes the term, 'the good ol' days' holds true, and this is one of those times. There was a time when a Sunday without a family dinner wouldn't feel like a Sunday at all. Families would only skip such events under special or dire circumstances. People would drive for miles across cities just to be with their extended family members and relish a good meal together.

In those hours of love and laughter, all that mattered was one another. Details of everyone's past week would be shared, achievements and disappointments alike. There could be a different location each week or just the one, and everyone would contribute to the food and drinks.

The Sunday dinner table is a place where family bonds are strengthened. The feeling of oneness and a sense of identity is imbibed into the younger generation when everyone regularly comes together. They learn that they can identify with these people at any point in their lives. They learn values and norms, listen to experiences and build their character from the informal interactions at the dinner table.

Today's family dinners

Nowadays, family dinners are mostly organized on special holidays or birthdays (if at all). Everyone is either too busy or too exhausted to get ready and hit the road on a Sunday to meet up with family. I used to be one of those people, lazing around, padding about in my socks, reading Jessica Clare books, and drinking bland coffee. My mother recently had enough of it and brought everyone back to their senses. Life's shorter than we imagine it to be, and we have to make the most of it while we're still together. Long story short, nearly every member of our family in our area has begun to make it a priority to be present at grandma's house on Sundays.

We don't have them every week, but at least twice in a month, we get together to bask in the radiant love of family and enjoy some crazy good food too!

Family dinners are worth it

A recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Texas reports that social interaction improves the mental activity of adults and prolongs lifespan. If that's the case, who better to interact with than your own family?

Many people aren't big on family dinners because they assume it must be planned with so much pomp, flair and style every week. Of course, this does not have to be the case. It shouldn't require so much effort to put together a table if everyone contributes their own quota every week, no matter how little.

Also, be flexible with the day you have dinner. Sunday may be tradition but it doesn't have to be. As long as the family falls into an exciting pattern, it shouldn't matter what day it falls on. It also doesn't have to be held every week, but try for what works, and do it as frequently as everyone feels comfortable.

Here a few tips for having a successful Sunday dinner:

1. Plan ahead

Let everyone know early enough that there's going to be a dinner that week. Discuss details of the location and everyone should know what they can bring along. These requirements should be assigned by everyone's current financial capabilities.

2. Focus on the people, not food

The menu doesn't have to be a smorgasbord of royalty-worthy dishes. Focus on inviting more people over than on the food to be served. With time, everyone would understand the real essence of the get-together.

Also, family doesn't have to be limited to people who are related by blood or adoption. Your friends, neighbors, co-workers, romantic partners and acquaintances can also be family. Sure family is blood, but it's also a mindset above all else.

3. Pay attention to the timing

Choose a time of the day that suits most of the people that would be attending. It doesn't matter if the dinner holds outside or indoors. Whatever the weather permits is fine, as long as everyone sits together happily.

4. Get rid of electronic devices

Tell everyone beforehand to do away with their electronic gadgets and any other sources of distractions. The television should be put off and no phones are allowed at the table, except for taking pictures. Everyone must focus on one another.

The Sunday family dinner is a lot more than tasty food, it's an enjoyable time to bring everyone together. This is definitely 'a good ol' day' activity we all should want back.

This article was originally published on The Hearty Soul and it has been republished with permission from the author.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But, a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4 year old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year...

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keeping an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Following children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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