Ah, the daily grind! Getting dinner on the table each night can sometimes feel routine or, frankly, even a bit dull.
But keeping family dinner fun and surprising is easier than you think. Here are a few simple suggestions to transform your daily meal into something a little special.
- Make the atmosphere festive. A change in atmosphere can go a long way towards shifting the mood at your dinner table. Light candles, play music, use different place settings, dress up a bit, or vary the time of the meal. Voila! Dinner is suddenly a special event.
- Find something to celebrate. Celebrating doesn’t have to be limited to birthdays and holidays. Events that happen in our daily lives deserve celebration, too! Has someone in your family recently reached a milestone (training wheels off of a bike), finished a project (cleaned out a closet) or resolved a conflict (at work or at school)? Give this achievement some well-earned recognition with a celebratory meal.
- Make a family member’s favorite meal. People feel more excited by dinner when they have a say in it. Let a different family member design a meal each night, even if it’s a little wacky. For example, if your preschooler wants all starches (pasta with mashed potatoes), take a breath, and remember that you’ll definitely have veggies another night.
- Organize a theme for dinner. Theme nights can be loads of fun. Try organizing one around a country (Mexican or Italian night, for example), a season or a favorite topic (cowboy night, anyone?). Do this once a week, once a month or however often is manageable for your family.
- Invite a guest to dinner. Don’t underestimate the power of a new person to shake things up. Is there a neighbor, relative, family friend or one of your children’s friends who might like to come for dinner? Perhaps you know of someone who usually eats alone and would be happy for the company? Invite them over, and you’ll create a fun, fresh feeling at the table.
- Movie or book food: Choose a recipe from a movie (Big Night, Waitress, Ratatouille, Chocolat, Julie and Julia) or book (Turkish Delight from the Narnia series, Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, Pumpkin Juice from Harry Potter). Watch the movie or read a passage from the book, and then plan a meal! You can even dress up as some of the characters, if that sounds like fun.
At my house, we often turn up the music while we’re cooking. We also encourage our boys (ages 10 and 12) to help us cook, even though they’re sometimes reluctant to join in. They’re usually grumpy for the first two minutes, but then end up dancing while they stir a pot, prep something on our butcher block or set the table.
Cooking is absolutely a little chaotic with all of us in the kitchen and the music blaring, but it’s also festive and fun. It teaches us to relax a little. Sure, dinner might not be perfectly on time, the kitchen might be messier than usual and the kids are cooking instead of playing – but inevitably, we agree that being together and having fun is celebration in itself. – Lynn B.