Ways to Encourage Communication at the Dinner Table

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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.

Reading Aloud

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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”

Bible Memorization

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.

Guessing Games

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.

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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?

 

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24 thoughts on “Ways to Encourage Communication at the Dinner Table

    1. It’s good to have a plan in the beginning, to have that established in your home. I think it was something that my husband and I didn’t really consider when we had our first child, and we were faced with breaking some bad habits.

  1. Love this! We never ate dinner together regularly when it was just my hubby and I.. but now that we have kids I am so glad we make a point to eat dinner together every night 🙂

    1. And it’s a great way to teach kids how to eat with others at a table and how to handle eating at a restaurant or even at a formal event, like a wedding.

  2. i love this! Great suggestions. We always eat together even thought the 2 year old (and even 4 yr old) seem to be up and down the whole time. I feel like we are at least getting them in the habit. I’m sure when they are tweens and teens it will be hard with sports and school but hope to keep it going. that’s when we’ll get to actually hear about what’s going on in their lives. ha ha

    1. Yes, it’s always good to start when they’re young. When my older kids were younger, I felt like our dinner conversations were always about reminding them to sit still and having good table manners. But those are still opportunities to teach and train. Now our 3-year-old finds it easier to follow along with the conversations because his older siblings.

  3. It has been hard getting our 2 year old to sit at the dinner table with us but lately we’ve been turning off all electronics and all sit together and she eventually joins us. It is nice 🙂

    1. Yeah, I want my kids to still feel like they can talk to us when they’re teens, so hopefully, these family gatherings, like at the dinner table, establish a good foundation.

  4. These are great tips! Conversation and dinners together is so important. My family made it a priority and I plan to do the same foe the boys. I try hard to make dinner a together event, turn the tv off and have us all sit together in one place. Even if one of the boys isn’t hungry, I have them sit til we are all done. Now there are times where the tv is on and I’m at the counter or whatever, but as much as possible, I try to make dinner a sit down, together event.

    1. Yeah, TV was both a help and a hindrance for me when my oldest was still young. Having him watch TV was the only way I could get him to eat because he was paying attention to the screen instead of the foods that he didn’t like. But it became a hard habit to break later.

  5. These are great ideas! My son is still learning how to talk at the moment, so sometimes I sing songs with him. I like the idea of playing games to get children to open up more at the dinner table.

  6. Awesome tips! We eat around the table almost every night. I try to ask my kids about their favorite part of the day.

    1. Our family is growing in this too. My husband & I are probably more introvert by personality, so we really had to be intentional in encouraging communication with our children. It’s been a blessing though because the kids really see family time as a fun event … I hope it continues through their teen years.

  7. Meal time is very important! It’s also one of the times of the day when the family can actually discuss and talk about things. Social media has gotten in the way for the most part but I think it’s how we deal with it that’s important. Sometimes my son even eats in front of the PC! Ugh, my bad!

    1. I know what you mean about social media. I have a love-hate thing with it. We just have to remember that though it may have a place in our everyday lives, it doesn’t have to be there all the time.

    1. It’s been such a blessing to us to memorize the Word together! I hope you will enjoy it, especially when you’re little one is old enough to join you! It really helps with teaching, training, and disciplining children when God’s Word is already hidden in their hearts.

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