The New Canaan YMCA, in partnership with the New Canaan Youth Services Department, will host a free Family Dinner Night on Friday, Sept. 28, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A family-style dinner will be served from 6 to 7 p.m. Following dinner, activities will be offered for families to participate in, such as Bouncing Bears for children ages 8 and younger, archery for ages 6 and older, and a family swim.

The event, now in its third year, is inspired by "Family Day," a national movement that informs parents that the engagement fostered during frequent family dinners is an effective tool to help keep America's kids substance free.

"Family Dinner Night is one of my favorite nights at the Y. It's so important for families to spend time together, and it's great seeing so many of our community's families come together on this night for dinner and fun together," Davie Cedela, the Y's youth and family director, said in a release.

Encouraging families to eat together and spend more time with each other is in line with the 40 Developmental Assets presented by the Search Institute. According to the Search Institute, families that eat together generally eat more nutritiously, have teens that are less likely to be involved in risky behavior, have children with better language skills and academic scores, have a lower obesity rate, teach children to enjoy a variety of foods, and generally have better relationships with each other and their community. Additionally, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, compared to teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are:

almost four times likelier to use tobacco;

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more than twice as likely to use alcohol;

two-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana;

almost four times likelier to say they expect to try drugs in the future.

"We are hoping our Family Dinner Night will motivate families to get around the table together more frequently," Anthony Phillips, New Canaan's coordinator of youth and family services, said in a release. "Family dinners are key predictors to happy, healthy and well-rounded kids. Who would have imagined the difference that a dinner can make? Interestingly, dinner makes all the difference."

Those interested in attending Family Dinner Night can sign up at the New Canaan YMCA Front Desk or online at www.newcanaanymca.org/registration.html through Sept. 26.

For information, call Cedela at 203-966-4528, ext. 141.