Happy 238th Birthday America! This month, we celebrate our freedom as we honor the creation of the Declaration of Independence and our birth as a nation back in 1776.
In keeping with that spirit, we offer you ideas for cultivating freedom in your own home, particularly around family meals. Not only will these four ideas empower your children, but they may just free you up from having to do it all!
Present your children with two or three options for dinner, and have them choose together the meal they want. You can step it up a notch and give them a list of salads, sides and main courses, and allow your kids to create the menu. Offering children choices is important for the development of self-esteem, independence, and a sense of responsibility. And bonus: it helps to minimize conflicts! If you have a teenager, ask him or her to choose the music for dinner, which can turn into a great conversation starter at the table.
Invite your children to help cook, at whatever skill level is appropriate for them. Young kids can stir a pot, crumble the cheese, set the timer, measure ingredients, pick leafy green vegetables off their stems (kale, basil), push the button on the blender, crack eggs, or whisk anything. They can also set the table. With supervision, older children can chop ingredients or make the whole meal!
Tension can often dash your hopes for a peaceful mealtime, but not if you’re prepared. First, eliminate the element of surprise around mealtimes by discussing menu options with your kids beforehand. Also, avoid bringing up topics at the table that you suspect might lead to a fight…like grades, curfew or behavior problems (our tips for having challenging conversations can help you approach these topics away from the table). And last but far from least, free yourself from stress by aiming for the “good enough” dinner. Make a fun time shared by everyone the goal, not perfection.
A good game can do wonders for your family meals! Try Would you Rather, or Name that Tune, or one of our other many games to redirect restless children, strengthen connections with your family and keep everyone looking forward to coming back to the table. Or let imaginations run wild and create a new game—and then share it with us on Facebook so others can benefit!
These tips come from our free, online program Food, Fun and Conversation: 4 Weeks to Better Family Dinners.Learn more.
Banana boats are a delicious dessert you prepare at home and then cook on the beach!
Whether you’re making bananas boats at the beach or enjoying a barbecue in your backyard, engage younger children in this fun sensory experiment.
Free yourself from the burden of coming up with your own conversation starters this month by using ours.
If you were free to do anything you wanted all day, what would you do?
What do you think about rules? Do you think they’re important? What are some rules you have in your house or at school?
Why do we celebrate the 4th of July? What is your favorite part of the holiday?
Do you think you have too much freedom, or not enough?
Talk about a person you admire, famous or otherwise, who has fought or fights for the freedom of others.
Do you feel free to be yourself?
“Freedom lies in being bold,” said poet Robert Frost. Talk about a time you were bold.
What political freedoms have you witnessed come to fruition in your lifetime?
2023 The Family Dinner Project