Nancy Halevi, Psy.D.

 Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Blog

Family Meal Time Part 2

Posted on September 16, 2014 at 5:50 PM

We all want to enjoy meal times with our family. However, achieving this is often easier said than done. With a thoughtful planning mealtime can be a time of connection and shared enjoyment. Below are just a few ideas to transform family mealtime into a time of truly warm engagement.

Each mealtime activity is identified as being appropriate for toddlers (T), school aged children (S) or adolescents and teens (A).

1. Appetizing appetizer dinner (TSA--• with toddlers and young children omit toothpicks and make “finger food” instead) Everyone loves appetizers. There is just something fun about eating little bites of delicious food. It’s even more fun when you can eat them with toothpicks (or fingers)! So, why not make the whole meal a grand grazing feast? Ideas for this dinner might include, pigs in a blanket, mini burgers, fresh cut veggies with ranch dressing for dipping, cheese squares, crackers, rolled up deli meats, pickles, olives, chicken wings, cucumbers with cream cheese, etc. Anything can be made bite sized and thus be made fun!

2. Surprise dinners (TS) Sometimes it’s fun to not know what is for dinner. A fun way to make a game out of trying new foods is to cover and number the dishes and let the kids pick one at a time to try. The only rule is that whichever plate gets chosen, everyone has to try at least 1 bite.

3. Breakfast for dinner (TSA) Break up the routine of what’s for dinner by serving breakfast! Kids love the novelty of eating breakfast food for dinner. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, cereal, toast, fruit, smoothies, waffles take on a whole new meaning when served as dinner.

4. Dipping dinners (TSA) Dip into something new and unusual. For this dinner, make what ever you want or normally would but spice it up by adding small bowls in the center of the table for dipping into. For example you might place bowls of apple sauce, cheese dip, ranch dressing, chocolate syrup, honey, ketchup, mustard, jelly, peanut butter, whipped cream, vinegar, mayonnaise, etc… the more unusual, the better. You never know what combinations might appeal and it is always fun to experiment with new flavor combinations!

5. Progressive dinners (TSA) Shake things up a bit by having the first course (salad or soup or fruit) at the table, the second course (main entrée and sides) on a picnic blanket on the living room floor and dessert on the lanai. Moving about (progressing) from place to place can be fun!

6. Musical chairs dinner (TSA) After every course everyone moves to a new seat to either get a new perspective, or be able to talk with and sit next to someone new!

7. Dessert first dinners (TSA) I have a great friend who has a group of adoring children who love to eat at her house because she often allows them to eat dessert first! Not something you may want to do often, but for something special, this is sure to please!

8. Blindfolded dinner (SA) As indicated in the title, this dinner is eaten with blindfolds on so all the diners can experiment with food without the aid of sight. They can guess, the contents and share the fun! Blindfolds do not need to be kept on through the whole meal, only when trying the first bite of a new food.

9. Arts dinner (TSA) Cover the table with butcher paper and place crayons on the table and let everyone color, play hangman, tic tac toe and have a grand time!

10. Numbered dinners (TS) There are several ways to have a numbered dinner. You can place a certain number of items on each plate (for example, 1 hot dog, 2 bun halves, 3 tomato slices, 4 olives, 5 carrots, 6 string beans, 7 French-fries, etc.. Or you can number the order in which foods will be eaten. First, the carrots, then the hotdog, next the olives, followed by the French-fries, etc.

11. The Curiosity dinner game (TSA) The idea of this dinner game is to get curious about each other. A great way to engage in fun dinner conversation is to get to know each other in new ways. One way to do this is to ask each other questions in which there are no right or wrong answers, rather it is meant to provide a fun way to explore values and opinions.

Here is a sampling: If you could have any super power what would it be? What is your happiest memory? What is the funniest joke you have heard? If you could be on any TV show which one would it be? What are your favorite items or things about your room? If you could only eat one type of food, what would it be? If you could only have one book or movie, which would it be? You get the idea. Engage in fun conversation topics, which will appeal to all age groups and in which all age groups can participate. For more topic ideas there are books available, which are filled with all kinds of conversation topic starters. Also, it is fun to make up questions with the family. You’ll be surprised at what kids come up with!

Final note. Kids who are active, may benefit from being able to get up for a moment in between courses to stretch their legs and “ get the sillies” out. Set a timer, allow them to “mingle jingle” about for a moment or two and when the bell sounds have an enticing food option, game or conversation ready at the table to entice them back.

Categories: Family Wellness