Dinnertime is often the busiest time in a family’s day. With school activities, soccer practices and doctor appointments, combined with technology distractions like email, texting and TV, getting the family together for quality mealtime may seem nearly impossible. However, the benefits to children and parents alike are worth the extra effort. There are numerous studies that prove how spending quality time together as a family, eating dinner and communicating with one another contributes to healthy child and adolescent development, and helps form better nutritional habits.
With all of life’s distractions, it’s important to use mealtime as a fun and interactive way for family members to spend time together. Whether it’s playing a game or simply asking how someone’s day went, the following ideas are sure to entice even the busiest parent or child to make time for family mealtime.
Chef for the Night
Get your child involved in cooking by having them plan a menu, shop for ingredients or cook and serve the meal. Cooking with children encourages creativity, responsibility and time management. Other advantages include teaching your child where food comes from and having them apply math and reading skills while following a recipe.
When I was younger, my family played several question games, including “20 Questions” and “Two Truths and a Lie.” 20 Questions requires someone to think of an object, animal or person, and have family members guess it by asking up to 20 yes or no questions. In “Two Truths and a Lie,” family members go around the table and say two “truths” of their day and one “lie” and have family members guess which was the “lie.” This encourages families to share details about their day and often prompts further discussion about what happened at school or work. Another fun question activity involves asking members to share the “high” and “low” of their day.
Creating a list of 20-30 questions ahead of time that are cut into slips and put into a jar is a great question activity that generates different answers from everyone. During mealtime, family members choose several questions out of the jar. These questions can be serious or silly, such as “If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?” Creating silly questions is sure to get interesting responses from family members!
Celebrate the Small Stuff
Use mealtime as a way to celebrate small milestones. For example, dedicate dinner to a child who got a good test grade, won their baseball game, lost a tooth or helped around the house. This will encourage your kids to share positive things going on in their lives, and will foster greater family support and higher self-esteem!
A post from Blog for Family Dinner, “Seven Mealtime ‘Games’ to Encourage Family Dinners,” includes a review of seven great mealtime games, including “The Family Dinner Box of Questions: Cards to Create Great Conversations” and “Gather ‘Round Dinner Game.”
It’s important to keep conversation positive during family mealtime and make sure every member is able to contribute to the conversation. Turning off the TV, radio, music players and cell phones will make room for more quality interaction between parents and children.
What is your family doing to encourage positive conversation during mealtime?
Lauren Wisniewski wrote this post for Together Counts on behalf of Edelman Digital.