Finally carved out a night for your family to sit down and eat a meal together? Now that you’re all present, make mealtime playful and fun with games that are sure to spark conversation between you and your children, and strengthen your relationship with one another.
The benefits of family mealtime
“We no longer quilt on the front porch together, so mealtime is one of the few times of the day when a family connects with one another,” says Dr. Anne Fishel, author of Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids.
Eating dinner together also provides parents with a valuable opportunity to model basic face-to-face social skills and etiquette to their kids. These skills are increasingly important to develop in an era where much of our children’s communication is conducted through technology.
And speaking of technology, designate mealtime as tech-free to ensure that your family’s full attention is on each other.
“If family members are distracted by checking their phones and other screens, they miss out on the chance to really focus on each other and convey that essential message of ‘You come first,’” says Fishel.
Need help getting the conversation going and lightening up the dinner-time hour? Try a few of these games that your kids, from preschoolers to teens, are sure to embrace:
1. Two truths and a false. Not only does this game appeal to my children’s creativity and imaginations, I can usually learn something new about their day that they forgot to tell me. To play, go around the table and take turns sharing two events that really happened that day and one that did not. Who can guess which one is false?
2. Draw forth a discussion. Christie Zemencik, mom of three, ages 20, 16, and 9, says she covers the table with butcher paper and puts crayons out. “My girls draw or write random things that usually lead to conversations as to why that was on their minds,” she says.
3. High-Lo. Adrienne Dreher, mom of two boys, ages 8 and 5, says that she and her boys discuss the ups and downs of the day to get the conversation rolling: “What was the best thing that happened to you today? What was the hardest?”
4. Conversation in a jar. Karen Conklin, mom of three, ages 10, 8, and 4, created a jar with dinnertime conversation starters on strips of paper. “An example is, ‘Name two people that made you smile today and why,” says Conklin. Her children enjoy adding conversation ideas to the jar, too.
5. Table topics. Julie Melchior, mom of three, ages 16, 13, and 10, says she purchased a pack of Christmas-themed conversation questions one year. Each night the family selected a card to discuss.
“The kids couldn’t wait to sit down and get the cards passed out,” says Melchior. “It was so interesting for my husband and me to listen to their answers and hear what they remembered from their past holidays. It gave everyone an opportunity to share and listen, and we talked about things that probably wouldn’t come up in normal dinnertime conversation.”
Find kid talk
Conversation Cards, Crunch a Color Conversation Starters, Chat Packs or Table Topics are available to purchase at local retailers, including bookstores, and online. For additional ideas on how to keep the family dinnertime conversation going, check out The Family Dinner Project at thefamilydinnerproject.org.
Not sure how to get the family together for a meal?
Freelance journalist Christa loves to find new ways to ‘chat and chew’ with her family, which includes her husband and their two school-aged sons. Christa is the author of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.
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