Family dinners are something I hold at a high level of importance, but during the baby years, they were difficult to make work for our family’s schedule. Usually I’d feed the girls early (5:15 pm or so) then make dinner for David and myself once they were asleep (7:00 pm). We are now in a place where things have shifted. At three and five years old, we have made the transition to eating as a family. With David’s unpredictable work hours, sometimes this means just the three girls and I save David a plate, but at least a few times a week it means all four of us sit down at the dinner table together. Right now I start making dinner around 5:00 pm we eat between 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm.
Dinners are not a speedy event. I don’t mind that so much, as I like the time spent around the table as a family, but the loss of focus and the girls hopping up from the table (95% of the time it’s so they can take turns singing songs and dancing, I kid you not) are something I’ve been working on reigning in.
I’ve found that with preschoolers, natural lengthy conversations don’t necessarily come easily. One on one, Hailey (5) could carry on quite the conversation, but with Kaitlyn (3) thrown in the mix, it’s easy to lose the flow of the conversation.
To remedy this, there are three dinner conversation starters we use to get the ball rolling.
The Rather Game
Hands down, this is the girls’ favorite game. We often haven’t even all sat down yet but Kaitlyn is already asking if we can play the rather game. The premise is simple: we go around the table and each person gets a turn to make up their own question. Would you rather ____ or ____? Each person gives their answer and explanation of why they chose it.
Sometimes the questions are silly.
Kaitlyn: Would you rather eat dinner with Cinderella or Jasmine?
Sometimes they are informative.
Hailey: Would you rather eat eggs or cereal for breakfast?
And other times, they are more conversational when the kids can’t really decide which to choose.
Me: Would you rather go hiking in the woods or swimming at the beach?
I like this game because it lets everyone participate, but the segments are short and quick which keeps even the youngest engaged and leaved plenty of time for bites between question.
The Grateful Game
Do I even call this a game? It’s a question. But for some reason calling it a game makes it sound super fun for the girls. I love this “game” because it keeps me on my toes. As you probably imagine, we all take a turn sharing one thing we are grateful for. Oftentimes it is what I might expect:
Hailey: I’m grateful for my family because I love you and I’m going to live with you forever. (direct quote)
Kaitlyn: I’m grateful for going swimming.
But every once in a while they’ll surprise me.
Hailey: I’m grateful for bees even if they want to sting me because I like honey and they make good honey. Wait, does anyone else make honey?
Continue the Story
This game is actually our typical lunch-time go to activity. The girls love stories. They love listening to stories and telling stories. So we combine both these things to create an engaging meal time activity. One of us begins the story with a sentence or two, then we rotate around the table. The person to the left adds on the next sentence to the story. Rarely do the stories end up making sense, but they always end up with giggles.
Again, this is a great game because it gets everyone involved but also allows for natural pauses to take bites.
I enjoy family dinners for so many reasons. Not only have they taught (forced?) me to slow down my eating speed, they’ve reminded me that dinner time is partially about the food, but also about connecting at the end of our days, sharing our thoughts, and bonding as a family.
How does dinnertime work at your house?
Do you struggle to keep everyone seated, like me?
What tips to you have to share for a smooth sailing family dinner?