So I have 8 kids, and sometimes things can get a little crazy around here, to put it mildly! Dinner time is the one time during the day that I (try to, as much as is possible) make sure we eat together so we can spend time together as a family.
But sometimes things get, shall we say…confusing!!!!! Boring. Dry. Loud. Chaotic. Nasty even. I want it to be a nice time, a fun time, a time of friendship, beautiful memories, and getting to know and love one another. So why does it so easily turn into just the opposite?!
A while ago I got so frustrated with our dinner times that I felt like locking my door and letting the kids fend for themselves. Thankfully, since then I have discovered several things I’ve found that help curb the chaos and turn a potentially disastrous family feud into a happy, even meaningful (sometimes!) family time.
Here are a few things we’ve done and still do around the dinner table which have proven to be a lifesaver and the kids actually look forward to these times together! When you’re talking about teenagers too, that’s a BIG DEAL!
We don’t do things together around the table every dinner time–maybe a few times a week, but when we do, it’s a fun, relaxing time, and we often end up laughing A LOT! (except for the time when the 2 year old silently wandered off and drew with marker all over the wall, or when the dog jumped onto the kitchen table and ate the dessert, or….)
Here we go:
1. Tell jokes! Ask riddles. There are many sites which have jokes and riddles for kids, but here are a few we like:
2. Say one thing you like about the person next to you. You can go around the circle, or pick one child per night or week or however you want to do it. Not only is it good for the kids to learn to see the good in each other, but it also helps boost self esteem!
3. Play a game. Some of our favorites are, “Who am I?” “What am I?” “Guess the song” (Child taps the rhythm of the song on the table for the others to guess), “Guess the cartoon.”
4. Pick a year or event and talk about it. Take turns choosing what to talk about. Reminisce the good times. Often I will start by recounting an event and the kids have to guess when and where it was and then we all pitch in to share our favorite memory from it.
5. Go around the table and ask questions. For a fantastic list of 350 questions to ask kids at the dinner table, or at any time you want to have a fun conversation with them, check out this awesome list from ooph.com. There are a lot of original and interesting questions for kids there that I never would’ve thought of! Some are meaningful and thought provoking too!
6. Get to know each other. Choose one person to get to know. Everyone else must guess their favorite things. For example, favorite: animal, color, language, song, movie, historical character, cartoon character, TV series, food, dessert, time of day, subject, activity, flower, plant, vegetable, set of clothing, place in the house, memory, etc.
7. Quizzes! We love these! There are all sorts of fun quizzes–educational, trivia quizzes, or just plain fun and silly. There are tons and tons of great quizzes online as well as fantastic free apps–too many to name here. We love them and I think this is one of our favorite meal time activities!
8. Talk about the worst thing that happened to you that day and the best thing that happened.
Most of all, enjoy each other’s company, and try not to let little things annoy you to the point that dinner time is an unpleasant exchange of everyone’s grouchiness! (Ya know what I mean, like it’s not the end of the world if the baby decides to use his meat sauce as shampoo, or the toddler is feeding the dog her food under the table again! Just those little things!!!)
One day you will look back on these times and smile, and you’d be surprised at how much these family times will mean to your kids when they get older. Just don’t get under pressure about it. There is no right or wrong way, and if it’s not going well, try something else next time!
What about you? Have you found anything that helps your evening meal to be a nice time together? I’d love to hear your ideas!