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Real Family Dinner Projects: The Trip Family

Posted on: March 5th, 2019 by Bri DeRosa

We’re pleased to introduce the Trip Family, fans of The Family Dinner Project from The Netherlands. The Trips have been working on ways to get the whole family involved in making dinner happen at their house!

The Family:

Val and her husband are raising three children — 12-year-old Will, 9-year-old Alex and 6-year-old Lucy — in The Netherlands.

The Goal:

Currently, the Trips are enjoying their family dinners together, but would like to work on helping all the children to stay seated until the meal is over. Like many children, Will, Alex and Lucy are eager to eat quickly and then rush off to play or do other things that interest them, but their parents want to be sure that everyone remains at the table to enjoy family time together.

The Challenges:

Staying present for dinnertime and family bonding isn’t just a challenge for very young children. As is the case for many families, the Trip family is working on balancing the influence of screen time in their household. Recently, the family had their weekly screen-free day, and 9-year-old Alex struggled to find ways to fill his time. He ended up in the kitchen and decided to try to make an ambitious dish: Tiramisu! Val says that after the first attempt, Alex returned to the kitchen every week during screen-free time to continue working on his skills, and eventually mastered the dessert well enough to serve it to his family at dinner that night.

The Strategies:

Letting the children take ownership of different elements of dinner has become a key theme for the Trip family. Over the summer, they rented a vacation house for a week and, as Val puts it, “I did not want to be the one stuck with all the cooking!” So the family decided to give each member an assigned evening to handle dinnertime.

To get the process started and limit choices, Val bought all the main protein items for the vacation in advance. Then each family member chose the one they wanted to cook for their assigned dinner, along with side dishes, and made a trip to the store with a parent to buy all the things they would need to cook their meal. When it came time to cook, Val and her husband took turns supervising and helping the children with the cooking, while the other kids were in charge of setting the table and cleaning up after dinner.

The idea was such a success that the family has continued to use it in different forms even after summer vacation ended. During one recent school break, they decided to divide the week into “Girls Cook” and “Boys Cook” nights to ensure that everyone gets some time completely free from any dinner responsibilities. And the children have all started to get into the kitchen regularly to try out their baking skills. Val reports that all three love baking and will usually spend weekends baking cakes and other desserts to share.

Letting the family all take part in planning, cooking and cleanup certainly helps kids to feel more ownership of meal times, which often means they’re more willing to stay at the table. But the Trips have also started using a conversation jar during dinner to keep everyone engaged and make it more fun for the kids to stay at the table while others finish their meals. This simple idea — a jar or basket filled with printed conversation starters to choose from — is one of The Family Dinner Project’s most often recommended ways to keep the fun and conversation flowing, and conversation jars appear on every table at our Community Dinner events. We love to see families like the Trips using them at home!

The Food:

The Trip kids all love french fries and their mom’s special pasta with spinach. 6-year-old Lucy also enjoys curry and chose to make it for her special dish when she was in charge of cooking for the family. And of course, there’s now Alex’s carefully perfected Tiramisu…!

The Best Part:

The whole family agrees that the best part of eating dinner together is sharing in the conversations that develop. “I am so supportive of having family dinners together,” Val says. “I am a great fan of family meals and want to spread the message!”

Do you have your own family dinner project to share with us? We’d love to hear from you and consider featuring your family! Contact Us.