The family dinner has long been an example of family togetherness. But recently, scientists have been coming up with compelling reasons — including a lowered risk of smoking, drinking, and doing illicit drugs among teenagers — for families to pull up a chair around the table.

The interest in the ritual may have been spurred by concerns that the number of families who do not dine together is increasing. According to several surveys, 30 to 40 percent of families do not eat dinner together five to seven nights a week, though most families eat dinner together some days a week.

Families with older teenagers eat fewer dinners together than those with younger children.

The two most common obstacles, parents say, are late working hours and activities that overlap with mealtime, like soccer games, chess matches and drama rehearsals.

So, the kind folks at the family dinner project have come to the rescue in the form of conversation starters to give us a helping hand and keep the chit-chat flowing.

Some ideas the family dinner project have come up for better dinner times include – putting the phone (tech devices) away; avoid topics like chores for the kids, politics and food choices.

A few of their ideas for great dinner conversation – if you joined the circus, what would your circus act be; if you were free to do anything you wanted all day, what would you do; and can you think of anything you learned today that I might not know?

Their site is full of other wonderful tips to explore to bring your family closer such as family rituals, recipes to cook, and story-telling games to play.

If you’re keen to learn more, simply google family dinner project – and bon appetit from all of us here at H & H!