Monique is with is today with some wonderful insight into how to make family meal times special…
Several years ago, my husband often didn’t get home from work until 7 in the evening. My young children practically demanded to be fed promptly at 5pm and if not… well, it wasn’t pretty. So, often we ate dinner without my husband and he came home to children just going off to bed. It didn’t take long to realize that our mealtimes were lacking something. Mealtimes should be family time. Eventually, as both my husband’s schedule and my children’s internal feeding clocks relaxed a bit, we had our evening meals together again.
We truly appreciate this time together for the opportunities it provides to connect as a family, to share what happened throughout our day as well as our plans for the coming days, and to enjoy time to sit without distractions to focus on what’s important: Us.
As our children have grown, we have involved them more in various stages of mealtime. We started with having them help set the table which led to fun attempts at creative napkin folding. Now, the kids take great pleasure and pride in planning and preparing an occasional meal. So, not only are they learning ways that they can contribute to the household, but we are together- collaborating, conversing, and sometimes even cavorting.
And the fun continues throughout our meal. We talk about what we are thankful for, the bright spots and the sticky spots of our day, we get caught up on what’s new and interesting, we play games, and now (thanks to Mariah’s e-course) we share the latest “put-ups” in our jar. By the end of this portion of our day we are feeling balanced and grateful for our family time!
Whatever time of the day is your family mealtime, make the most of being together and staying connected.
In case you are curious about our mealtime games, here’s some of our favorites that you may enjoy trying:
- Piggly Wiggly: Everyone takes turns giving a clue, beginning with the statement “What would you call…”. The answer must be two words that rhyme. For example: What would you call and overweight feline? A fat cat!
- Story Chains: The first person starts off with a story opener and ends with an unfinished sentence or a suspenseful sentence that makes it easy for the next person to build on. The next person adds more to the story ending their portion in the same way. Continue on until everyone has had a turn (with the last person making up a conclusion to the story) or until the story has played out.
- Name the Category: One person begins by naming nouns, one at a time. Other family members begin calling out a category that they think the word might fit in to. The person giving the words keeps going until someone guesses the right category. For example, if the first word is “cat” others might guess “house pets” as a category. As more words are given, like “owls, snakes, hawks, fox”, someone might figure out the category “animals that eat mice”.
- Packing My Bag: One person is chosen to begin the game by saying, “I’m going to _____ (name a place) and in my bag I’ve packed a ______ (name 1 item)”. The next person says, “I’ve packed a” and must restate the first item and add another. The third person must restate the previous two items and add a third, and so on around the table. Keep going until someone forgets an item.
You can also download a copy of the napkin folding cards that we keep in our cloth napkin basket. Print the instructions on one side of card stock and the diagrams on the reverse, laminate, and give it a go!
If you’d like to read more about connecting during family meal times, here are a few links to resources:
- The Family Dinner Project
- The Family Dinner book
- Michael Pollan: Cooked (see his comment in the section titled “On bonding with your kids over cooking” or listen to the interview)
I’d love to learn how you and your family connect during meals together…