How to Get Families Back to the Dinner Table

Family dinners used to be a staple of quality time. Everyone would gather around a warm meal and enjoy sharing what they were grateful for or stories about the different things that happened during the day. Often these meals were a time of family connection. Life’s busyness can get in the way though and rob this time from us. We want to share some tips for making family dinners a priority. 


Tips for making family dinners a priority 

Start small

When starting something new it can be hard to transition smoothly into it. Many families will try to make family dinners an every-night thing right at the start. This can start out well but could quickly be derailed by extracurriculars, homework, projects, and other commitments. Before you know it, family dinners get cancelled and life goes back to the way it was. There are some simple ways to start small when introducing family dinners. 

 

  • Start with one meal a week. - Look at your family schedule for the week and pick one night each week when you can sit down together as a family to eat dinner. It doesn’t have to be the same day each week. The goal is to pick a night that works for everyone. Be willing to be flexible with your scheduling and find a night that everyone can commit to being focused on family meal time. 
  • Put it on the calendar. - Things that are priorities often make it to the calendar. In order to make family dinners a priority, start to add them to the calendar. It will help you to set aside time for that family time. This might mean that you need to bump another commitment or change around how you schedule your days. However, the value of family dinners will often outweigh the items you have to move around. 
  • Start with a simple meal. - Investing a great deal of time into an elaborate meal can be a quick way to get family dinner cancelled. Focus on a simple dinner that is sure to be easy to prepare and ready so that everyone can sit down and enjoy. This might mean doing a hearty smoky BBQ recipe or making it a salad bar where everyone chooses their favorite salad dressings and fixings.

Make family dinner a family project

Many parents will skip a traditional family dinner because it’s one more thing to keep up with. With the constant hustle and bustle of life, it can be overwhelming to add something else on. This is why it can be fantastic to make family dinner a family project. When everyone is working together to make family dinners happen, no one person is left doing it all. Here are a few ways you can make family dinner a family project. 

  • Take turns meal planning. - When planning a dinner for a family meal, it can be easy to cook the same things on repeat. If you want to add some fun to family meals, let each person pick one of the family dinners. You may find that the kids have fantastic meal suggestions. Be flexible with the meal plan and let each person pick their favorite items. Use an easy-to access recipe site that provides lots of delicious recipes. If you want to add an element of life skills, let your kids help with the grocery list for the meal they choose. 
  • Give everyone a job. - Have smaller children help with setting the table or adding their favorite bottle of sauce to the table. For older children, let them join in on meal prep and learn to cook a favorite meal. Take turns splitting up the meal prep process to let everyone enjoy it. By sharing the workload, no one feels like family meal time is extra work for them alone. 
  • Have a plan for cleanup. - Clean as you go or have certain people on cleanup duty after the meal. Having a plan for cleanup can help everyone to relax and enjoy the meal. When it comes to cleanup, divide the jobs out and get each family member involved in some way. This can mean younger children help with clearing the table while older children wash dishes and clean down counters. Having a plan in place will help to avoid stress associated with cleaning. 

Have fun with family dinners

Family dinners don’t have to just be about the meal. In fact, it’s a great time to come together as a family and catch up after a long day. While it may be intimidating to sit down to dinner as a family if it isn’t your normal, it doesn’t have to be. Family dinner time can be a fantastic time to invest in connections between parents and their children. Here are a few ways to have fun with family dinners. 

  • Print out/buy conversation starters. - If you struggle with starting conversations with your family around the dinner table, conversation starters can be just what you need. There are a variety of options from the serious to the silly. The goal is to prompt conversation but not to become regimented. It’s completely ok if you start with one question and spend the entire meal on that first prompt. 
  • Have a favorite food night. - If you want to have some fun with family dinners, make it a favorite food night. This could look differently based on the family. You might let one child pick their favorite each week or prepare a meal that is a combination of everyone’s favorite food. Take some time to find out why that is their favorite food. 
  • Have fun with the theme. - Having a themed meal can add to the fun of family dinners. You could do a taco night or a dinner in your favorite costumes. The options are endless and really depend on how much time you want to invest. The theme of the dinner can dictate the types of food, conversation topics and more. Change up the theme once a month or every few months for a fun twist on family dinner nights.