Let’s face it, between jobs, school, extracurricular activities and everything else that families juggle on a daily basis, there is hardly any time left to really sit down together and make sure that you have meaningful family time. Often you can go for days and days without carrying on a full and meaningful conversation with your spouse or kids. So how do you avoid falling into this trap and find time to create memories and stay in tune with each other’s lives?
Well, you do it around the kitchen table!
Yes, you heard me right. Break that pattern of eating on the run and make dinner time a priority and you will be amazed at the difference it makes in the lives of you, your spouse and your children! I know, I know – it so much simpler to serve the kids a TV dinner and eat you sandwich while you do throw in the last load of laundry but you don’t realize the precious time that you are missing out on! Try it for a week and see what you think!
Here are five easy tips to help you transition to a meaningful family dinner that is sure to bring a smile to your entire family’s face!
Set aside family dinner time and make it a standing appointment. I understand that the time may have to be different some days because of sports practice or meetings at work. But try to create a habit of sitting down together daily. Yes, the kids might fight you on it at fist. Your spouse most definitely will. BUT you have the ability to implement this daily ritual and make it stick! The more you do it, the more your family will embrace the idea. And before long, they just might beat you to the dinner table!
Involve your children in the preparation of the meal or the setting of the table. This can really be a fun time for them as well as for you! J-Man loves to mix ingredients or set the table. You can allow them to get creative – decorate the napkins or help arrange the food in a special pattern on each plate. This helps them to invest in the meal and be excited for it!
Create themes that the family can get excited about! When I was little, my mom would associate certain meals with our favorite TV shows. We had “Scooby Doo” night where we ate roast beef sandwiches. I still to this day call a roast beef sandwich a “Scooby Doo” – find the things that your kids get excited about and then create a meal around it. J-Man is very into “Phineas and Ferb” right now, so creating “Ferb’s Favorite Fajitas” works well for us! You will be amazed at how excited your family will get about the theme nights. They will soon be reminding you that it’s that night of the week for their favorite themed meal!
Come up with a fun dinner time game that everyone gets excited about. Maybe it is I spy that leads to a story about everyone’s day. Maybe it is hot potato where you pass a small beanbag and whoever it goes to has to tell one exciting thing that happened to them. Get creative here and get your family talking! One of the most special things about having a meaningful mealtime is getting in tune with what is going on in your family’s life. You will walk away from the meal knowing new things about each other and feeling a special connection!
Make clean-up a group activity. Once the meal is over, everyone has a tendency to scatter and your perfect meal come to an abrupt end with you getting to clean up the mess. Get the kids (and the hubby) to help with the end of the meal as well as the beginning. Use a clean up song to encourage your little ones to pitch in. This activity will help you carry the momentum of mealtime through the evening. If you are left cleaning up the dishes, you family mood the you have created may completely evaporate by the time you are done. Instead, having the family help clean up helps you easily transition into the next stage of your night – whether that is homework with the kids, reading time or just relaxation for the whole family!
Above all else, make mealtime about family. Make it about creating memories and enjoying the company of each other. And before you know it, you will have a daily ritual that brings your family closer together and has everyone leaving the dinner table with a smile!