Now that school has started, so have the after-school activities, which means it’s harder and harder to get the family to sit down and eat together. I don’t know about you but this is a huge challenge for our family. Now more than ever it’s important to get the kids to sit and talk with you about their day. I want to hear about who their new friends are, which subjects they like most, where they need help with their homework, or how they handled a weird situation with another kid in class.
According to an article at Time.com, families who spend quality time around the table talking and interacting have more well-adjusted children, no matter what age they are. What do they mean by well-adjusted? Healthier, less likely to do drugs, have sex, and learn to use a fork. I’d give anything for my son to use a fork!
Trust me, I know it’s hard for busy families to schedule quality time together but you have 21 chances a week to sit down to eat and interact as a family. Hopefully, you can find at least 4 or 5 times a week to keep the family connected. To help schedule that, read my article at Patch.com on How to Get the Family to the Dinner Table.
However, just because you got them to the dinner table, it doesn’t mean you are connecting. You have to engage beyond just grilling everyone about their day. My goal is to make family dinner time together FUN so the whole family wants to be at the table. A tough task but it’s worth it!
Here are some of my ideas on how to make family dinnertime more fun so everyone looks forward to this time together and feels more comfortable talking.
1. Dancin’ in the Kitchen. To keep things lively, we like to crank the tunes and dance or sing while we cook, set the table and clean up. Grooving some calories away before and after dinner is good for the heart. Take turns picking the tunes.
2. Choose or Lose. Another way to have some fun at dinnertime is to let the kids choose the entire meal on certain nights. I let them choose an entree, side dish, veggie and fruit for the meal. That way I am teaching them to include all of the food groups when they plan a meal. They might choose some interesting items that you wouldn’t normally eat together but that’s what makes it fun.
3. Conversation Games. Sometimes you are just tired or at a loss for a dinner table topic. That’s why we keep some conversation starter cards near the dinner table. There are quite a few conversation games out there but we like the Family Dinner Box of Questions and Chat Pack for Kids the best. You can also write up some of your own questions ahead of time. It’s a fun way to get the conversation started and learn something new about each of your family members.
4. Positive Affirmations. When we have had a bad day or the kids have been fighting a lot, I like to “play” the positive affirmations game at the dinner table. We go around the table and say what we like most about the other family members. It forces us to focus on the positives and it is a small ego-boost for everyone. We all leave the dinner table in a much better mood.
5. Opposite Night. The kids love it when we have breakfast food at dinner time. So grab those breakfast and brunch recipe favorites and surprise the family. Or, eat dessert first one night to really throw them off balance.
6. Dinner Themes. If we are having Mexican food, I’ll see if I can throw some Mexican inspired decorations on the table. We’ll play Mariachi music while we eat. (Pandora.com is awesome for finding unique music you might not have in your collection. Type in “Latin Cafe” and you’ll love the mix.) Try French night, Asian, Old Fashioned Pizza Parlour, Red Food Only, Foods that Start with the letter “P” as themes. Be creative!
7. Play Spoons. Especially if you have little kids, they love it when you teach them how to hang a spoon off of the end of your nose. If your kids are older, then get their competitive juices going and challenge them to see who can do it first or the longest.
8. Dinner is Served. Lately, we have been playing restaurant on weekends when we stay home and cook. My daughter is the waitress with her pad of paper and pencil and my son pretends he is the chef with his chef hat and fake mustache. They love serving Mom and Dad at the table and I have to say I really like it, too.
What do you do to connect with your family at the dinner table? Please, leave a comment. We love to try new ideas.
For more on this subject, read 6 Ideas to Get Your Kids to Talk More About their Day.