To add meaning to your dinner, engage, participate, involve the kids, create conversation, decorate the table, celebrate occasions, and share stories.
Dinner is not just about consuming food & filling your appetite. Family dinners are critical for emotional wellbeing and a sense of belonging – some things we have been made acutely aware of during the pandemic. Sitting at the dinner table with your family will help you realize the norms & values of the family, the tradition & culture.
No matter what life challenges you are going through or how much stress you are under, a little dinner time and family time can certainly make things relaxing. To plan a dinner that everyone will enjoy, you need to consider a few things. In this article, we are going to talk precisely about that.
Here are a few tips to make your dinner time more meaningful & engaging-
1. Ensure Everyone’s Presence
It is essential to create memories & family rituals. A dinner table is usually where we all sit together, making it the perfect place to create memories you can cherish for years.
But first, you need to make sure all the members of the family are taking an active part. Get rid of the idea of eating separately in everyone’s room. Even if you need to be firm or strict to establish this rule, do it. It will have a significant effect in the long run on every one of your family.
Researchers have found that a bit of talk over dinner only for 10 minutes can benefit participants’ mental health. If you have kids, they learn to become independent, learn to respect their decisions, and be confident by just participating in dinnertime conversations. Also, substance usage can come to a stop with this practice.
So, invite everyone to come down to the dinner table & encourage them to talk about their day.
2. Involve the Kids
Having kids is a blessing. Yet you may grow tired of their mess at the dining table. If that’s the case, learn to take advantage of this natural gathering. Get into the chaos & give them tasks that involve doing prep works for dinner.
Ask your kids to wash and chop veggies with parental supervision, of course. Ask them to set up the table and have them help you prepare meals. Cooking dinner for the entire family can be overwhelming, and if you are running out of ideas on what to cook, you can check out Picky Eater Blog to find some easy and quick recipes everyone in the family can enjoy.
Rely on their decisions. Letting them set up tables will encourage them to decide for themselves. They will also learn to rely on their instincts. Their self-confidence level will get a boost by accomplishing these significant yet straightforward tasks.
Furthermore, you may get amazed to see their skills & talents at meal prep. Your kids may also find things like cooking and setting tables interesting and find a new love for these things.
3. Add Tradition to the Table
If you are religious, you can say your prayer of gratitude before starting to eat. Even if you aren’t religious, you can hold hands together for a moment and thank mother earth for nourishing your family before you eat.
If you follow other beliefs, do the things that you culturally inherit. Performing religious or cultural acts at the dinner table holds significant importance. This is part of the ritual and tradition passed down over thousands of years through humanity.
It helps shape the spiritual beliefs & removes the heavy burdens off of your shoulder. You learn to be content with what you have & thank God for those. Also, your siblings or kids learn the same thing from an early age. They can later implement that in their lives.
4. Celebrate All Sorts of Events
Who doesn’t love to celebrate an achievement? Most of us think of hosting a party or going out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate certain occasions. But these parties can be expensive. Rather, you can enjoy a nice family dinner followed up with fun games.
Families always stay by you in your most challenging times. So, why not share your successes with those who mean more and who care the most?
Apart from celebrating the occasion, it’s also a good way to make your dinner time more meaningful. You can celebrate the news of your promotion, success, new ownership of something, your partner’s success, your kids’ good grades, and their extracurricular activities. Also, you can try to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, and other events with close ones.
This automatically creates a culture in the entire family where you will always want to share good news over a family dinner.
5. Say No to Devices on the Table
Using a mobile phone or tablet at the dinner table is an awful habit. However, this problem is more acute in older adults rather than kids or teens. In the USA, one out of five parents waste their precious time at the dinner table by checking texts, or worse, work emails.
This problem has overwhelming side effects. If the elders keep prioritizing screen time rather than giving time to family, the kids will get the wrong message here. And later, kids will develop this same habit as well.
Therefore, you need to prohibit using any kind of tech gadgets at dinner time. Instead, talk about daily things, tomorrow’s plan, ideas, projects, memories, family stories, and basically anything that can build a conversation.
6. Talk, Talk & Talk
How can you make your mealtime more meaningful if you keep quiet? So, talk freely, with an open heart. Don’t be picky of words. These are your own flesh & blood, not strangers. There’s no shame in talking in front of your family.
Focus on other essential things as well. For instance, talk about how your day was, what you did, what good things you did, what went wrong. Encourage your partner or kids to do the same too.
You will indeed develop a sense of self-esteem & trust among them. Also, you are setting the footstone for your kids to express themselves in front of everyone without hesitation. This quality will help them in the long run.
However, by talking, you get to check in on the mental health of everyone. As a parent, it’s important to understand what your kids or your partner are going through.
7. Be Creative with the Setting
If you are preparing special food or just eating food from takeout containers, you can always add some uniqueness. Changing the layouts of the dining table or the way foods being presented can make a huge difference in creating visual interest.
A cozy dining setup can change anyone’s mind instantly. Maybe you can try putting the tabletop differently, add rugs to make the place look more spacious & lively.
Similarly, if you want to impart a romantic vibe, maybe you can decorate the table with flowers, use dim lights instead of typical lights. Candles, however, are the most effective options here.
You can try different themes based on the mood & occasions to create a unique & engaging environment.
8. Participate Not Dominate
When engaging with everyone at the dinner table, make sure you are not dominating the conversation, not by words or deeds either. Let everyone talk. Let kids or teens speak. Instead, make sure they do most of the talking.
Listen to them sincerely and actively. You can start the habit of telling good/bad aspects of the day. Talk about a highlight of the day and a low point of the day (while not sounding negative). Then ask the person next to you to share their day’s highlight.
If you let them follow this small rule, they will develop a sense of self-awareness in them.
11. Praise not Scold
Although you try to make mealtime more meaningful, it’s natural to lose temper sometimes. Maybe you got upset because of something that happened, or your kids did something awful.
Whatever it is, do not lash out during dinner. Never scold or talk ill of others at the table. Remember, you are creating a habit in your kids which they will follow throughout their lifetime. So, you don’t want to give them the wrong message.
The dinner table should be a safe haven for everyone where anyone can open up without being judged.
12. Play Dinner Games
Another excellent way to make your dinner time fun and engaging are to play games with your younger kids. Let them guess the ingredients of today’s recipe.
You can tell them to map out where these foods came from. They will be eating & learning too, in a fun way. Also, you can describe to them how you cooked the dish they are enjoying. That way, they will be curious to try out & end up helping you do the prep work.
13. Teach them the art of conversation
14. Cook with your kids and let them cook too
Final Thoughts – Enjoy Dinner As A Family
Dinner time is all about family gatherings & quality time. So, be innovative & try to engage all your family members as much as possible.