1. Make Dinner a Priority
When you first tell your family members that their presence is required at dinner, especially if this has not been a common family occurrence, excuses will fly. Whatever the excuses, parents need to explain that dinner is a family affair, and everyone will be there. Work with them if you need to, but bottom line – everyone’s gonna make it.
2. Schedule Dinner
Schedules run over with appointments. It is difficult for families to coordinate the schedules of all the family members. Having a great dinner with the family starts with coordinating schedules so everyone can plan with family dinner in mind and put it on the calendar week after week.
3. Plan Meals
Nothing spoils a dinner faster than children turning up their noses at what's being served. Children can hardly complain if they become part of the planning process. Explain to the children what constitutes a healthy, well-balanced meal, and then allow them to help out.
4. Prepare Meals
Part of what makes a great dinner is ownership. Let the children help with the grocery list and, if possible, do the shopping together. When it comes time to prepare the meal, give each child a task according to age and ability. Young children can get out apples or unwrap cheese. Older children can
learn to measure, chop and bake. When the meal is served, everyone can take pride in the result!
5. New Dishes
Family favorites can get boring. Make a dinner great by preparing and serving new, unusual dishes. If you don't want to take your children too far out of their comfort zone, start by trying new spices or fixing favorite foods, such as potatoes, in new and different ways. Let the children use their creativity in food preparation too.
6. Encourage Conversation
A great family dinner includes good conversation. Parents can initiate conversation by talking about interesting things that happened during the day, before asking children to share something from their day. Good family dinner conversation won't happen if one person is texting, another waiting for a call, another is listening to music or television. The rule for family dinners is no distractions – remember it!
7. Choose Topics Wisely
At each dinner, let family members take turns choosing topics to start the conversation. One child may wish to talk about sports, while another one might bring up a news story. Mix it up and encourage everyone to participate.
Celebrate events and holidays with special foods, napkins, and desserts. Decorate the table for Christmas, Independence Day and birthdays. Fun decorations help make for great family dinners. Use dinner time to praise children for good grades, awards earned or for something positive they have done.
9. Plan for Take Out
A family dinner doesn't always have to be homemade to be great. Make dinner special with a family- favorite take out.
10. Clean Up
Cleaning up extends family time into the kitchen. Discussions continue and children learn responsibility by cleaning up after they eat - plus, you save time!!
Alex Taylor likes to write about parenting and saving money.