I'm a big believer in family dinners. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this, but there is a lot of research to show what a great effect family dinners can have on kids. There are books about it. I have one. This one looks good too. My parents were great about family dinners and I can hardly remember a time growing up when we didn't sit down together for dinner. It was a nightly deal. So I knew I wanted dinners to be a mainstay in our family.
When the boys were little I was worried and guilt-ridden because we couldn't seem to make the family dinners happen. Tiny kids eat at such particular times, and the dinner I had planned for Nate and I often wasn't ready at the same time. So sometimes we would eat together, but more often the kids would eat their meal, go to bed, and then Nate and I would get around to eating. It was kind of a free for all and I thought I was failing at the family dinner thing. But then time passed, kids got older, and the family dinner just fell into place. I just share this for those of you with very young kids. If you don't feel like it's coming together, don't worry, it will. Give it time.
Once we established the whole eating at the same time thing, I still felt like we could use some help coming together as a family. Sure, we were all sitting down together, but our focus was kind of all over the place. Nate and I were trying to talk to each other, the boys were trying to talk to us or yelling about some random thing. It was a little chaotic for my taste.
I stumbled upon these dinner questions on a blog. I cut them out, put them in a jar, and we started reading one every night. It was fun. The boys loved it and reminded us enthusiastically every night to pull out a question. It gave us all something to focus on for a few minutes and a chance to get to know each other better. We ended up not loving the questions provided by this blog..... some of them seemed more appropriate for older kids, and some of them were just bits of trivia. But we still loved the practice of the dinner question. So I looked around for some other options. Turns out lots of products exist for this very purpose. Here are the ones we've tried:
Family Fun Time Beginner Dinner Games
Kid Talk: Conversation Cards for the Entire Family
You Gotta Be Kidding! Would You Rather game for kids
When I heard Mr. Popper's Penguins was being made into a movie, I decided we needed to read the book as a family before seeing the movie (too bad the movie was thoroughly terrible). Thus began our tradition of reading at dinner. So we are done with the games and questions for now. We read chapter books instead. Since I find that my boys aren't usually open to my book recommendations, this is a good opportunity for me and Nate to introduce them to books we loved as a kids. They get to choose their own reading materials almost all of the time. At dinner there is no voting process. It is parents' choice. We enjoyed Mr. Popper's Penguins. Now we are reading The Littles series. The stories are simple and fun, with short chapters. The boys would totally scoff at these books if I were to bring them home and casually suggest that they read them. Never, ever would they pick up these books on their own. But because I have dictated that these will be our dinner books, they like them and they ask for extra chapters every night. Funny how that works.
I love reading at dinner and can see us doing it happily long into the future. I can't wait to introduce the boys to all my childhood favorites.
So those are the things we do during dinnertime. How are your family dinner times going?