How do I Make Family Dinner Fun?
Whether your kids are big or little, family dinners are at the heart of keeping our most important relationships strong.
In fact, they’re so important, they cite differences in kids’ language development, depression rates, relationships, weight, and how kids perform in school (source). No small potatoes here!
The problem, of course?
Family dinners are not always FUN.
Parents, you know what I’m talking about.
Within five minutes, the kids are bickering, you’re shoveling food to the baby before she explodes, and someone reminds your son to use his fork (and stop eating like an animal) for the five millionth time. It can be downright exhausting.
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So, today is all about fun family dinner activities. How can we foster connections in small, meaningful ways? And smile a little doing it?
15 Ideas for Fun Family Dinner Activities
Let’s check it out!
1. Good and Grit
First, the most surefire way to get kids (and grown-ups) to open up is to create a ritual at dinner that highlights their day.
In our home, we like “good and grit” where each person tells something good about their day and something they did that was hard. Other creative options are “sweet, sour, & service” or the straightforward “high and low” of the day.
Dr. Jamie Donnelly, experienced school psychologist, suggests “high, low, cheer.” “Cheer takes it a step further and it can be someone you are rooting for or someone who has helped you that day.”
Use one of these or create your own! After a few repetitions, the kids will come to the table ready to share.
2. Gratitude Alphabet
This easy game is also great alphabet practice for young ones.
Use the letters to come up with things the family is grateful for. This can be as simple or complicated as you want!
- A = we love the taste of APPLES
- A = we’re grateful for the love and warmth ANIMALS bring to our lives.
Have each member give a compliment to another person to set the tone for a peaceful and kind dinner.
4. Tell Jokes
My son, especially, gets a kick out of telling and hearing new jokes. And we’ve found dinner time the perfect time to try out fresh ones on the group.
Related Post: How to Become a More Playful Mom
5. What Are You Proud of?
Help raise self-esteem by asking kids to share what they like about their actions on a regular basis.
6. Conversation Starters
These conversation cards do an amazing job of guiding your family into discussions you would never be able to create on your own.
They are quick and easy to pull them out, and different cards are perfect for different ages. As a result, you know you’ll be able to use the cards for years.
- Is it more fun to be a parent or a child?
- Would you rather have no rules to live by or the rules you have to live by now?
- What do you remember about your first day of school?
- How are you different from everyone else?
Related: Best Conversation Game Ideas to Play
7. Create a Story
This easy game requires no supplies!
One person starts a story with a sentence, then you go around the table all adding once sentence to the story. Before you know it, you’ve got a very exciting and slightly confusing tall tale the kids are dying over.
8. I Spy
This simple, but entertaining game works every time.
Pick something around the room and say “I spy something ______ (choose a color).” Then, members of the family take turns trying to pick the object based on your color.
9. Would You Rather
Next, kids (and adults alike) love discussing scenarios and silly situations.
So, find simple cards or make up your own “would you rather” items. Watch the ridiculous and often silly discussions unfold.
- Would you rather fly or be invisible?
- Would you rather have one wish granted today, or three wishes granted in ten years?
See this great list of would you rather questions for kids! Or check out:
- This awesome list of Never Have I Ever Questions for Kids
- 23 Best Family Game Night Ideas for additional games!
10. One Thing You Are Grateful for
Research tells us that grateful kids are happy kids (source).
So, spend a moment or two starting dinnertimes with what you’re thankful for today.
11. Song Melody
If you love music, this is one of the best ideas for your fun family dinner!
Each participant knocks a melody of a favorite song on the table and the group has to guess what song it comes from. Find out more at Anchored Women.
12. Use the After School Questions
This set of questions to ask kids is great for using at the dinner table to liven up the same old conversation.
Want to be ready for back to school? Check out 11 Fun Back to School Traditions
13. Book Club
Do you have older kids that love to read?
Pick a book for the whole family to read, then spend a few dinners discussing what everyone thought of the book!
14. Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Add this little activity to your fun family dinner ideas!
Each family member picks a person they’d invite to dinner (living or not).
15. Do a Taste Test
Finally, make a game out of trying new things for dinner! Cook something, then blindfold the kids to let them taste. Next, discuss what everyone thinks of the texture and flavors.
For older kids, try a meal from a different culture. Learn about the food, find the place of origin on a map, and look up interesting facts about the cuisine.
3 Tips to Make Family Dinner More Relaxing
Getting outside can be a fun family meal game changer for two reasons.
First, kids can be as messy as they want, and no one has to clean it up! (It’s a rockstar move for any parent.)
And two, isn’t everything better outside? Enjoy the fresh air, nature, and more space for everyone to roam.
Make Good, Good Enough
The truth is, we could spend all of dinner correcting the kids’ manners and worrying about how healthy or tasty the food is. OR we can chill and enjoy the company of those around us.
So, do yourself a favor and lower those expectations.
And remember that the goal here is the connection, even if that’s only an imperfect minute in the chaos of your day.
Make Dinner Easier
Finally, most of us are lucky to get a reasonable meal on the table when six o’clock comes knocking. And if you’re burnt out before dinner begins, it’s very difficult to have a good time with your family.
So, ease up on food prep or ask for help if dinner making is a struggle.
Then, use resources to your advantage! Double meals and freeze one for later, get takeout, use that beautiful crockpot, and become an expert in one-dish wonders.
Need Easy Family Dinner Recipes?
Check out these awesome family dinner ideas:
- 21 Healthy Weeknight Dinners in Under 45 Minutes
- 12 Crockpot Dinners for a Healthy You
- The HUGE List of Dinner Ideas for Moms (I use it every week for meal planning!)
What are your favorite ideas to make family dinner fun and easy?