Mealtime with kids can be a drag. Mommy is exhausted, kids are hungry and cranky and everything seems to be piling up at once. But it’s actually possible for to make mealtime fun. Fun for Mom and Dad, fun for all the kids, and a nightly or weekly ritual to look forward to. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
Everyone’s dinnertime looks different. Sometimes, only one parent is home. Sometimes, all the kids come home in intervals and eat at different times. Or you’ve got so many clubs and lessons and occupational therapists to go to that you have picnics in the car.
No one’s doing it the wrong way. We’re all just trying to feed our kids, maybe even healthily, and get through the day.
But if there’s one thing that brings a family together, it’s family dinners. Everyone together, around the table, enjoying food and company. And while it paints a nice, rosy picture, it can be very difficult to make that a reality.
Personally, I would love for it to happen every night, but realistically, it just doesn’t. Life happens. My husband often works late, or my good intentions for cooking a wholesome supper flies out the window. But without even planning it, at least once a week, (other than Shabbos), we all sit down and enjoy a meal together. For some, a family dinner may work out only once a week or even once a month. For some, it might work well every night, so you can switch up the ideas below to keep it fun and fresh.
So now, the questions practically begs itself. Making mealtime fun? Is that even possible? And the answer is, sure! You can make mealtime fun and enjoyable by ensuring a few simple things: that you’re relaxed and calm, that everyone is being fed and that the atmosphere is inviting.
Make mealtime fun with these 7 easy tips:
1. Preparation is key
Anything that you may need during the dinner should be on the table before dinner starts. This is so that you will not be constantly getting up to get something. It will actually allow you to eat and enjoy your own dinner too!
This includes things like ketchup, napkins, the water pitcher, salt shaker and the baby’s bib. If you use plastic plates and cutlery, a utensil caddy can be really helpful so you’re not gathering everything together every night.
Don’t forget- the kids can help set the table!
2. Kids eat with their eyes
It’s a known fact that people eat with their eyes. That’s why there’s a high emphasis on beautifully plated dishes in restaurants. But kids also eat with their eyes. You don’t need to plate anything professionally, but bright colors and neat portions make a difference.
If you have the time and head-space for it, by all means, make those funny sandwich faces and flower shaped pepper slices.
What my kids get excited over is their special sectional plates and colorful place-mats. I don’t use them every night, since I’m a big fan of disposable plastic, but when I bring them out, my kids go gaga over them, and they’re more likely to finish everything on their plates.
3. Involve them
When trying to make mealtime fun, it’s a great idea to include your kids. Especially if you’re only doing this every so often, kids will love being involved, and they’ll really look forward to dinner.
You can involve them in different ways, depending on their ages. Older kids can pick out the menu and even partially cook supper. Younger kids can help with peeling the veggies or mixing the salad. Go through your favorite cookbook and let your kids put sticky notes on recipes and pictures that look appealing to them and consider making those recipes for your next family dinner.
4. Don’t wait till they’re hungry
Kids (like most adults) don’t do well on a hungry tummy. Have dinner prepared and ready to eat before they turn into starving creatures that sound like you haven’t fed them in three days. Not only will everyone be calmer by dinnertime, but there’s a good chance no one will overeat.
5. Turn it up
Turn on some music! Be it some soft classical, or a favorite CD, make the ambiance in your home something everyone enjoys.
6. Read to them
I love this tip, especially if you have younger children at home. IIf you are comfortable with either eating a bit quicker than the others, or a little bit after, consider reading a storybook at the table. Once all the kids are settled with their food, read their favorite book! I’d pick a fast one, one that they are already familiar with so there isn’t too much interruption.
For older children, you may want to consider learning something, like a lesson a day, something no longer than three to five minutes.
7. Positive discussions
My children, ages 5 and 6, respond well to this, and it’s really terrific for all ages. Turn your mealtime fun into a mealtime of gratefulness. Have everyone go around the table and mention something that they were grateful for that day, in school or at work. You can also change it up a bit and have everyone mention three things that made them happy that day. The opportunities to springboard discussion and bring the family closer are endless.
What does mealtime look like in your home? Do you have any ideas of your own to make mealtime fun? Comment below!