Do you feel that you spend enough family time together? Is it time set aside to listen to each other and have fun or is it spent doing homework, cleaning up or chauffeuring kids around from activity to activity? As our lives get busier often with two income families, activities after school, sports events, and the ability to be “plugged” in at all times, family time seems to be an aspect of life that is getting pushed out. This is a sad fact because often dinner is the only time during the workweek that families are able to get together and catch up on their individual days.
Family Time seems to be underrated or a rarity these days. Whenever we are able to schedule family movie night or game night, my kids are excited and talk about how much fun they had the next day. It is a time to come unplugged, to enjoy each other’s company and to laugh! I believe a family that laughs together, stays together. My older kids even think these are great nights. Will they feel the same way when they are 16? Maybe not, but I sure hope they will enjoy some family time once in a while.
How can you make these nights fun with little effort after a long work week? When the kids were little, we had a family “picnic” in the living room. I made picnic food, set up a blanket, and we watched a Disney movie. As they got older we would have theme nights. Some examples are: Taco night with Mexican theme, fondue night, and a favorite “brinner for dinner”. This is when we make breakfast foods for dinner. Whatever the theme, the key is to make it fun and to make it seem like something special.
Family dinners are an important time of day to get an idea of how everyone’s day went (even with teenagers). We often start dinner with grace and then go around the table and everyone gives their best and worst accounts of the day. This was the best thing that happened to them today, this was the worst thing … etc. My three oldest children are boys, and this is often the time of day that I get a glimpse into their days. Some boys are very open and tell you all sorts of things, others are tight lipped and give yes/no responses to questions. I have kids that fall into each of these categories. I really enjoy highs and lows at dinner because it will often lead to other conversations and often some giggles.
The key here is to set up a theme that is relevant in your house or to make it something the kids would get excited for based on their ages, interests.
Picnic on the carpet: Set up an indoor picnic in your living room. Set up a towel or blanket on the floor and make your best picnic foods.
Fancy Nancy Lovers: This theme is fun for anyone who has little girls that love to dress up, play tea party or just like being girlie. You could set up an afternoon tea where everyone has to come in their “fancy” clothes and everyone must use their best manners. Maybe you could even make the table “fancy” by adding doilies, candles, flowers, beads. I guarantee this will be a night your kids will remember down the line. After dinner you could read a Fancy Nancy book or princess story or give each other manicures.
Train lovers: Come to dinner dressed as a conductor. Make name cards and rest them up against a small Thomas the Train in front of each table setting.
Dance Party: This is fun for any music lovers. Who doesn’t like a good dance party where you can bust a move in the privacy of your own home? Come to dinner dressed in your best dance outfit. Could be sweats for comfort and movement or perhaps some sparkle if you are into the retro look. After dinner, you have your own dance-a-thon.
International Night: This is for older school age kids. Choose a country such as Italy, Germany or Switzerland. Make a meal that reflects that country- lasagna, spaghetti, sausage and potatoes or maybe fondue. Have everyone come to dinner armed with one fact about that region.
Game Night: This could be done on a Friday night when there is no pressure to do homework. Everyone puts a game suggestion into a hat. Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, tripoly, Life and one person picks out of the hat to determine what game is played that evening.
Movie Night: After dinner choose a movie that is appropriate for all members of the family. Get blankets and popcorn ready to snuggle in.
Sundae Night: Go out a get all the favorite toppings for an awesome ice cream sundae and after dinner get scooping!