Persuading small children to stay in their seats during dinner can be a bit tricky. With a 4-year-old daughter named Chloe and a 2-year-old son named Charlie (or “Little Charlie,” as we like to call him), I know about this firsthand. Thankfully, my kids love to play dinnertime games and hear stories about our family, which helps keep them seated throughout the meal.
One of our favorite games is I-Spy. Even if it’s just with objects on the dinner table, Chloe and Little Charlie have a ball trying to figure out what my husband and I are looking at. The kids also like to ask questions about the different photographs that decorate our dining room. Our wedding photos are a great jumping off point for telling stories about our family, which they never seem to get tired of hearing.
Since both my husband and I have wonky work schedules, gathering together for dinner can be complicated. But family dinners are important to us – it’s the one time to sit down and enjoy a good meal – so we try our best to make them work. For example, if the kids have started eating by the time my husband Charlie gets home at 6:30, he simply pulls up a chair and strikes up a conversation about Chloe’s day at school, or what Little Charlie saw on his latest walk.
Due to everyone’s hectic schedules, easy meals are usually best. Grilled cheese is a household staple, and I often pre-make dishes (like lasagna or shepherd’s pie), which can easily be reheated later. Winter meals consist of warm, oven-made foods, while the summer brings lots of grilled vegetables.
When it comes to preparing for meals, both Little Charlie and Chloe like to be involved. The kids set the table – bringing out plates, drinking cups, butter dishes, and whatever the meal might need. Both children also clear their dishes after the meal, which helps teach them about chores and family responsibility.
In a world where we’re on the go 24/7, taking the time to eat dinner together is a great way to relax and have fun. My mother was big on family meals when I was a child, and it’s something that has stayed with me throughout my life. Hopefully, by learning about the importance of family dinners when they’re young, my own children will be able to carry on this tradition when they have families of their own!