When our kids were still young, we rarely ate together at the dinner table. We had a dining room, but it was used more for various projects than for meals themselves. Often, my husband and I would eat at the kitchen counter. The kids would eat in their high chairs, which were parked somewhere in the kitchen or in the family room.
When we finally realized that this set-up was doing nothing to encourage communication within our little family, we moved our meal times to the table. Here are some ways that we have found helpful and fun to facilitate conversation during meals that sometimes have kept everyone sitting down long after the finishing the last bite.
Even though my older kids can read on their own, these times of reading aloud to my children still hold a special place in my heart. When I read to them during meal times, I have a captive audience. But in this activity, I’m not the only one talking. The kids are eager to ask questions, make their own observations, and offer commentaries about the story. For more on this, here’s a post I wrote a while back about “How to Have a Successful Reading Time with Your Kids”
Last year, we had committed to memorize Bible verses together as a family. I tell you, I’ve been amazed at the children’s ability to memorize so much Scripture that it puts many of us adults to shame. Memorization can become a mindless, repetitive activity, but making it a point to discuss what the verses mean and how it would apply to our lives has certainly encouraged more talking in our family.
It can be a simple game of “I Spy” or “Twenty Questions.” My husband is really good with this, starting it off with some random, “What’s long and orange and good for you to eat?” Pretty soon, not only are they clamoring for a turn at guessing the answers, but also to be the one asking the questions. Honestly, my husband and I are often cracking up at the creative things that they come up with.
Ask About Each Other
In this world of technology and social media, it is not an unusual scene to walk into a room full of people, where each is engrossed in the “conversation” on their device instead of engaging in meaningful interaction with the person next to them.
Being at the table together is just one of the times we can encourage real conversation with our children by simply asking them how they are doing, what their interests are, what they did today, who their friends are, etc. Those brief talks at the dinner table are sometimes just a springboard for deeper, meaningful discussions later on, especially as they get older.
What are some ways you have encouraged communication in your family?