By Sue Kirchner
Now that school has started, so have all of the after school activities, which means it’s harder and harder to get the family to sit down and eat together.
However, now more than ever it’s important to get the kids to sit and talk with you about their day – who their new friends are, which subjects they like most, or where they need help with their homework.
Families who spend quality time around the table talking and interacting have more well-adjusted children, no matter what age they are.
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 accomplish that, read my post How to Get the Family to the Dinner Table.
However, just because you are all sitting around a table together, it doesn’t mean you are connecting. You have to engage beyond just grilling everyone about their day. Here are some 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 dance 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.