Family Dinner Can Be All Fun and Games

A family enjoying dinner together

Even if our kids are old enough to stay seated, many of us want to achieve more than a simple family sit-in and actually make family dinnertime a joyful time of day.

At our house, usually at the prompting of our eldest child, a.k.a. my husband Andrew, we play games that keep the conversation fresh and the dinner table lively. Some of these games also help children develop their vocabulary, spelling or counting skills, and of course, their social skills:

Speech Club: This is our daughter Celia’s favorite game.  Each family member has to talk for 30 seconds (use a timer) without preparation on a topic someone else chooses without saying “um” or “like” or pausing for more than 2 seconds. Subjects can include anything from eggs to Italy to autumn.

Progressive Story: My 10-year-old nephew Clark wants to play this game whenever he eats at our house, and it’s a great one for large family gatherings. The family tells a story with everyone at the table going around and adding just one word.  When someone wants to end the story they can say “period.”  The stories can be hilarious (especially if you do what we’ve done and ban “potty talk” at the table, lest all the words involve a bodily function).

“Made You Say”:  My husband Andrew developed a silly family dinner game that really gets the kids talking about their days.  Andrew asks them different questions that all begin with, “Tell me something that happened today that made you say…”  The last word ranges from “huh?” to “cool!” or “darn!”, or “that’s weird.”  It’s amazing how this simple game has inspired them to share stories about their day and chime in on dinner table talk.  They often request the “Made You Say” game.

Here are a few family dinner games suggested by other parents on The Six O’Clock Scramble Facebook page:

Alphabet Game: “We have young kids – so we do alphabet games. Everyone goes around (in order) and names a word that starts with A, the next person with B, so forth. As they get older, they can also spell the word.”
Beverly Cook Halperin, Plano, TX

Spin the Dreidel: “We spin a dreidel to get my almost 4-year-old son to eat. He eats the meat, veggies, starch or drinks water based on what letter the dreidel lands on. My 6-year-old daughter came up with this idea last winter, and it works well.”
Tracie Cohen, Singapore

Guess the Animal: “We do an animal guessing game, kind of like twenty questions but with actual answers to keep things easier for the little ones. This works great until my husband picks an animal no one knows, like a wallaroo.”
Trudi Benford, Washington, DC

Food Mash: “We play a game we call ‘Food Mash.’ It works best with three people. Everyone thinks of a basic ingredient (preferably unprocessed, but certainly no more complicated than a condiment) but keeps the item to themselves. Then we all announce our items and collaboratively try to think up a dish that would be somewhat palatable featuring all of the ingredients (we allow the addition of other minor ingredients). More often than not, we can think of something we’d all eat.”
Molly Thompson, Bozeman, MT

There are, of course, some meals where the kids just don’t feel like talking much, and others where they won’t stop interrupting each other and us.  But we find the meals where we all happily engage in conversation to be some of the most memorable times for us as a family.

By the way, If you’re having too much fun at the table to end the meal, extend it by serving these delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cornmeal Muffins for dessert.

What games keep your family happily seated and engaged at the table? Please share here or on The Scramble Facebook page.

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