Speech Buddies Parents’ Corner – 5 Twists on Traditional Family Meals
Creating traditions with your kids is one of the most rewarding parts of parenting, and family meals are the perfect place to start. Even though modern family lives seem to be crowded and kids overscheduled, there are 5 fun twists you can try with your family meals that will create new traditions and build stronger families. Family meals can even help your kids thrive during the school day – studies show that when kids eat with their families more than 3 nights each week, only 9% of them get Cs or lower on their report cards, while 20% of those kids who get family meals less than that get Cs or lower for grades. So whether you’re trying to help your academically challenged child or just ease the family’s chaotic schedule, try these 5 ideas.
1. Family Meals that Take You Travelling
At your next family meal, have each family member share 3 places in the world to which they would love to travel if they could. Since this probably isn’t actually a possibility in the near future, let your family meals take you there instead. Each week try a new recipe that represents a specific country. You could even assign certain aspects to each child – dinner music from that country or a table setting that might be typical. If you’re eating a Japanese meal maybe it’s time to swap out the chairs for some floor pillows and gather around the coffee table instead and learn about Japanese table manners.
2. Family Meals that Share the Joy
This twist works best with kids who are preschool and older (you can help the younger kids). Assign each family member a course of the meal – maybe Dad gets the entrée and your daughter is responsible for dessert. It doesn’t matter if the food choices really fit well together – it matters more that everyone feels like they contribute and maybe the wackier the combinations – the better!
3. Family Meals that Aren’t About the Food
Researchers and parents know that the food served is only half the story when it comes to why eating as a family is important. Use your family meals to get to know and appreciate everyone in the family even better with this simple dinnertime activity.
- Take an empty mason jar, vase, or other container for your centerpiece.
- Put into that container slips of paper with questions that help a person share more about themselves with their family members – maybe things that should be obvious but sometimes just aren’t.
- Everyone in the family can take turns drawing a question, reading it aloud, and then answering it. Some ideas for questions include:
- What is the strangest dream you’ve ever had?
- What is the worst movie you’ve ever watched and why?
- If you could travel to any place tomorrow, where would it be and why?
The possibilities for these questions are endless, and so is the fun you can have when you get to know everyone around the table even more. The conversation starters are even great tools for kids who need practice with speaking and listening skills.
4. Family Meals that Start Early
Let the kids plan a meal for the week, then take them shopping to find the best deals for the ingredients they’ll need. Only offer as much help as to make sure that the activity is safe, and let the kids take the lead. Even if your 1st grader just makes the best PB&J sandwiches with a side of apple sauce sprinkled with cookie decorations for dessert, enjoy the night off of cooking and the pride your child will feel.
5. Family Meals that are About Family
Serve family meals that come from family recipes. Maybe someone in the family inherited Grandma’s cookbook, or you can ask for family recipes from your cousins on Facebook. These recipes often include simple ingredients and reflect your family’s heritage.
No matter what type of family meals you serve, your family will benefit from this time spent together. Who knows, maybe one of these 5 twists will become a new family tradition for your kids to pass on to their children!