There are endless studies about the benefits of families sitting down for dinner regularly. Improved relationships, eating habits and grades are all shown to be found in those that sit down together at the end of the day.
"Children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University published in The Atlantic."
Now that our offspring are school aged, it is often possible for us to sit down for an early dinner together. Admittedly it can be frustrating when I cook for an hour and one of the below happens.
a. Kids are silly, not behaving or listening
b. Complain they don't like specific ingredient or entire meal
c. Eat in five minutes, disappear and leave me another thirty minutes of clean up.
In effort to avoid the above, we began sharing our Rose and Thorn. We each go around the table and say our rose (high point) and thorn (low point) of the day. The longer we've continued this nightly question, I now hear thoughtful, heartfelt answers that often open up into interesting and educational discussions.
Here are games that can easily played while eating at home or even at a restaurant.
The ABC's of Gratitude is similar to the name game. Start at A and go around the table using the next letter of the alphabet as the first letter of the word of something you are grateful for. Think A- animals, B- bread, C- clothes.
Two Truths and a Lie is a funny opportunity to observe your little ones' poker faces. Simply one family member shares two facts that are true and one that isn't. See who can guess the one fact that is not true.
Whenever we play The Story Game, the kids create bizarre story plots that surprise me. Each person at the table adds a few lines to an ongoing story. You can begin with Once Upon a Time or use a topic that might otherwise be hard to bring up.
My kids love to be silly and make each other laugh. When the noise gets out of control, we Staring Contest. My stubborn kids (and husband) will seriously gaze into each other's eyes for a long time willing the other to blink first and I revel in the quiet.
On days when you would rather just talk, but are getting uninspired responses, try a few dinnertime conversation starters.
- If you could create a new class at school, what would it be?
- If you could live inside a book, which one would it be?
- If you could meet any U.S. President, who would it be?
- If you could invite any one person over to play, who would it be?
- Plan a dream vacation assuming money and time is not an option.
The best part is that sometimes these games or topics are simply ice breakers and side confessions and questions spur from there.
Do you ever play games at the dinner table?
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All above photos by Susan Ryan Kalina Photography.