In Calming the Dinner Time Chaos: Part 1, I shared how I was FED UP with the way our dinners were going. I could be “Zen Mama” all day long, but once we sat to dinner, if I wasn’t serving pasta with butter and cheese only, pizza with olives, or quesadillas, I’d be in for a battle! Until the book Dwelling: Living Fully from the Space You Call Home by Mary Beth Lagerborg inspired me to make a change. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, I suggest doing so now so you get where I’m coming from. 🙂
As I was thinking about how to solve our dinner time woes, I thought of how a classroom works. You need to have a plan. You need to have a focus, so as to keep the child engaged. I realized dinner time was a free for all, and that was spiraling out of control! So, now we have dinner time activities, which the kids look forward to!
1) Dinner Time Show and Tell Box.
If the kids have something they want to share with the family, whether it’s an art project, a good report from a teacher, or a flyer for something they’d like to do, they put it in the Show and Tell Box. Each child can put ONE thing in the box per night, so they need to use decision making skills. At the end of dinner, we take the things out of the box and take turns sharing them. It gives the kids an opportunity to share what is important to them without feeling like they are having to compete for our attention.
2) Blessing our food (We are TERRIBLE about doing this)
My dad still says the exact same prayer (at least when we are all together) as he did when we were kids. Like our answering machine message, which has been the same since the first answering machine used plain ol’ tapes, I knew it was expected for my parents to hold their hands out to “bless this food and us to Your service”. In our house, we ask if anyone would like to do the blessing. Middle usually chimes in with “Thank You, Heavenly Father for this food. We like food and we like to eat it. Amen.” It’s sweet, to the point, and honest. I love it.
3) Eating “Family Style”, even if it means more dishes to wash.
It feels pretty yucky to have slaved over a stove for an hour or more, only to have the kids start picking at their food before my rear hits the chair. There is usually the “Mom, I’ve already finished my water”, or a condiment that we’ve missed, which extends the length of my absence from the table. I’m not a servant. I am a part of the family, and we sit down TOGETHER to eat.
4) Dinner Time Conversation Box
This one warrants a post all of it’s own. Check again this evening (7pm PDT)!
5) Child created centerpiece
My kids, like many other kids, like collections. When we walk home from school, we invariably have a tagalong “sparkly rock” or “world’s biggest leaf”. I allow the kids to take turns decorating our table. There are a few parameters, though.
- We need enough space the eat
- You can’t play with the centerpiece, especially if you choose toys to put out.
- Little can’t be able to reach it.
Candles add a little sophistication to dinner, dontcha think? Plus, I love that the lighting of them signifies the start of dinner and the extinguishing of them is a close to the hour.
7) Cloth napkins
Cloth napkins save paper, are prettier, and feel more grown up to the kids. However, they are never to be used for blowing a nose. (seriously. I’m scarred for life, especially after having to “do table” and grabbing at the wrong spot).