We are thrilled to introduce our guest blogger and Family Week partner of the day Kimberlee from The Peaceful Mom. Kimberlee shares some tips on how to make dinnertime more fun below. Your eMeals meal plan and Kimberlee’s innovative ideas will have you out of a meal time rut in no time at all!
We all know it’s important to enjoy meals together with our families, but sometimes we can get in a dinner time rut. If you need to make dinner more fun, try these ideas:
Host a weekly theme night.
International Night- Choose a country each week or stick with one for several months (Mexican Mondays). Help your kids make a simple version of the country’s flag and display it during dinner. Bring out a special table cloth or table runner, or let your children design one using a roll of newsprint or craft paper. You can also make a “passport” from cardstock and give your children a sticker for each country you “visit”.
For Italian night you can listen to some opera, learn about different kinds of pasta and memorize a few Italian words. For Mexican night, pull out that old Mexican blanket from your closet to use as a table cloth and make a menu in Spanish. For Greek night, teach your children a “Greek” dance and enjoy some baklava. This could also be a great way to teach about your family’s heritage.
Picnic Night- Take dinner to the park in the summer. Serve finger foods with fresh fruit and veggies, and remember to bring plenty of water. Enjoy a game of frisbee or throw a ball around afterwards.
In the winter, spread a comfy blanket on the family room floor and enjoy snack type foods (flavored popcorn, cheese and crackers, salami slices) while watching a movie.
Upside Down/Backwards Night- Sometimes you just need to be silly with your kids. For Upside Down Night, serve breakfast foods instead of dinner foods and eat them on upside down plates. Sit on the floor instead of a chair. Eat dessert first (an ice cream sundae with the toppings on the bottom ).
For Backwards Night, put your clothes on backwards and use your opposite hand to eat. Make a menu with the food spelled backwards and teach everyone to say the backwards names (pancakes would be se-kac-nap). You can even make place cards with everyone’s names spelled backwards.
Play a game at the table.
Sometimes a little competition can liven things up. We have two favorite games at our house: “Stump the Mummy” and “Are You Smarter Than a 3rd Grader?”.
Stump the Mummy- For this game the kids are on one team and the mom (mummy) is on the other. Dad gets to be the score keeper, judge during disputes and encourager of the kids if they need a little help.
To play, each child takes turns asking a question (usually school-related) of the Mummy. If the Mummy knows the answer, she gets a point. If the Mummy misses it, the kids’ team gets a point.
Depending on your children’s ages and abilities, you may want to have them make up their questions and answers during the day so they have time to do a little research. Older children can help younger children to ask harder questions.
I like this game because it gives the kids a chance to see that I don’t know everything, plus I get a chance to learn some new things. If this concept is not appealing to you, try the second game.
Are You Smarter Than a 3rd Grader?- To play this game, you will need Brain Quest Cards at an appropriate level for your children. Divide the family into two teams and take turns asking 3 questions at a time, then switch so that the other team asks the questions. Teams get one point for each correct answer and the winner of the round is the team who gets ten points first. You can play longer rounds if your children are older.
Just remember to keep things light and fun, rather than serious. If arguments break out, it’s a great time to teach interpersonal skills like tactfulness, graciousness and saying “I’m sorry.”
Have a make-your-own meal party.
One of the things that makes dinner time more fun is getting everyone involved. Have a make-your-own-meal party by serving foods that have to be “constructed” before eating.
Mini Pizzas-Make mini pizza crusts from scratch or use English muffins, bagels or tortillas. Place the toppings in bowls on the counter and let everyone assemble their own pizza. Place the mini pizzas on a cookie sheet and put them under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the cheese melts.
Baked Potato Bar- Bake potatoes in the oven (check out this video for making restaurant style potatoes). Place toppings like chili, taco meat, cheese, sour cream, bacon bits and green onions on the table and let family members serve themselves.
Taco Mania- Cook taco meat and place it on the table with other toppings like grated cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, avocado slices and sour cream. Use corn chips for a little crunch and let your family create their own taco bowls.
When trying to bring some fun to dinner time, remember to keep it simple. The important thing is to enjoy each other in a relaxed atmosphere, not be the most impressive mom ever.
Kimberlee Stokes is the creative (and sometimes cluttered) mind behind the popular website The Peaceful Mom, where you can find practical ways to spend wisely, live intentionally and find joy. In between home schooling her four children and photographing dinner, she enjoys thrift store shopping, dating her husband and the occasional afternoon nap. The Peaceful Mom is giving away a $50 Walmart Gift Card to help you buy supplies for one of these fun ideas!