Today, we're talking about our best tips on making homemade meals, being consistent, making good conversation, and how to make dinner time fun. You'll understand the importance of eating dinner as a family and realize just how important it is really is!
If your life is anything like mine, then dinner time is…well…shall we say…CHAOTIC (though nightmarish, stressful, and tumultuous came to mind as well). It's a hard time of the day — everyone is hungry, tired from a long day, and in a rush to quickly get things done before bedtime.
It's also often a time filled with sports, homework, and bustling from one activity to another. BUT… As crazy as dinner time can be, I am a firm believer that a happy family is formed at the dinner table.
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As you know, we’re all about focusing on relationships and making our family bonds even stronger. I can’t stress enough the importance of eating dinner together as a family! Yes, you may be in a busy part of your life. It might only be for five minutes and it might only be a frozen pizza. But it will be together and that’s what matters!
I want to help you make dinner time fun. Start applying these five simple tips for making dinner time a positive experience for your whole family (especially YOU). You might just be amazed at how much the whole family loves eating together around the table at home!
MAKE A GOOD MEAL TO EAT AS A FAMILY
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right? Well, chances are it's the way to your kids' hearts too! Who doesn't love good home cookin'? Food is more than fuel, it's a legacy and imprint you leave behind.
My friend recently said, “I feel bad…my husband and I have so many ‘oh my mom makes the best…' or ‘my grandma's ___ was the best you've ever tasted…'. But I don't think my kids could say that about me! I'm going to change that.” Profound, no?
Believe me, I am NO cook. In fact, I don't even really like to cook. At this point in my life, it's just one more thing to do/clean up after at the end of the day. But I believe in the power of a good meal.
If you feed your family the same three things day in and day out, or if it's frozen, pre-made, or comes from a box, chances are dinner time will most likely NOT be something your family looks forward to. I have learned that homemade meals don't have to take any more time than pre-made or frozen ones!
HOW TO MAKE DINNER EASY AND FUN
- Plan your Menu – Meal plan at least one week ahead, but do two if you can!
- Set a “Theme” for Each Day – This helps make it easy. Mexican Monday, Italian Tuesday, Soup Wednesday… We have over 100 dinner ideas to help you keep things fresh!
- Double and Freeze – If you cook once, double it and freeze it for heaven's sake! You're already taking the time to do it. Then on a busy day when you forget to plan out dinner, pull it from the freezer, stick it in the oven, frozen and all, and let it bake until it's done.
- GO EASY – If the meals are hard or labor-intensive, you'll burn out quickly. Crockpot, crockpot, crockpot! Instant Pot! Casseroles that you can assemble the night before are easy, too.
- Share the Load – Have your spouse and even kids help with dinner. Assign them to cook portions of the meal, or prep the food the night before. Enlist help, especially with clean up!
- Use What You Have – I like Allrecipes.com because I can search for recipes by ingredient. Look at what you have in your pantry and fridge, and shelf cook! Make something out of that rather than running to the store. Who has time for the store on a busy day, anyways? Make recipes using what you have to simplify your life.
- Make it Affordable – Only go grocery shopping one time per week no matter what, and buy/plan your meals around what's on sale.
- Have a Leftovers Night – Just because you’re eating leftovers doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad meal! I have some great tips on how to reheat your leftovers and turn them into something new. Your family won’t even know they used to be leftovers! 😉
Get TONS of our meal planning ideas and free printables that will make your life so. much. easier.
BE CONSISTENT WITH DINNER TIME
If your family doesn't know what time dinner is served, or what days you'll be cooking dinner, that’s just a recipe for disaster! You'll find your family will “grab something” on the way home, or start snacking and not be hungry when mealtime comes, or they'll make food themselves without waiting for you. Pick a time for dinner and stick to it!
My mom was a great example of this. She always made it a point to cook a homemade meal every day. She would have the table set and the food ready and waiting at 5:30, even if no one was home to eat it. Whether we had to grab and run, or whether we could sit and enjoy, she knew the importance of eating dinner together as a family. Some days it was super quick, and some days it was the entire JV basketball team at dinner. Regardless of the situation, we always knew it would be there for us.
To keep from the 1,103,173 “what's for dinner??” questions and opinions every day, put your menu up for everyone to see. A simple dry erase board that hangs on your fridge for all to see can really help with this! It keeps you organized, and also keeps you accountable. No more running out at the last minute to grab takeout because you don’t know what to cook for dinner!
THE IMPORTANCE OF UNPLUGGING AND EATING DINNER TOGETHER AS A FAMILY
Unplugging is hard for me, hence my Unplug Challenge. I tend to keep my phone in my back pocket at all times. If I get a text, email, or call, guess what happens? BING! I'm on it within a moment's notice…even at dinner (shame, shame, Jordan!). I've learned I have to physically remove myself from my phone to avoid the distraction and temptation of it.
Get a basket, decorate it, and require every person at the table to literally hand over all electronics until dinner is over. Try it, I dare you. You'll be AMAZED at the conversations that flow once everyone is unplugged. And yes, that includes turning off the TV and music. The only thing that you should be able to hear is the sweet sound of your family conversing!
HARBOR GOOD CONVERSATION
Talk. Chit chat. Catch up. Blab. Gab. Stutter for all I care. For heaven's sake, just start talking! I'm amazed at the amount of times I go to dinner with my family, look around, and see people eating in absolute silence. Mealtime is the best time to let the cares of the world hide for a moment and enjoy pure quiet time with the ones you love! Why is talking so hard?? Here are a few ideas to help (some from our very favorite Freebs!)
My kiddos' favorite thing at the moment is “rhyming time.” Each person gets a chance to say a word, then we go around the table trying to rhyme that word and whoever can’t is out. They say some words that don’t make any sense and we crack up!Brooke W.
SWEET, SOUR, AND SERVICE
We have a tradition we’ve been doing for a while at dinner that we all LOVE. It's called “sweet, sour, and service.” I got the idea from my sister-in-law. Everyone takes turns telling something sweet that happened to them that day, then sour, and then how they helped someone.
It's a GREAT way to get the conversations flowing, even with our younger kids. Our big kids will even pretend to have our babies tell us what their SS&S was for that day. It's pretty cute. (Cue all the heart eye emojis!)
We go around the table and everyone has to give their peach and pit of the day (same as the sweet and sour). We have four teenage boys, so doing that leads to usually interesting conversations. Whether it’s helping someone with a problem they're having, laughing at something funny that happened during their day, or having an in-depth conversation about politics, faith, “new” everyday life topics like girls…Rosa P.
ENCOURAGE DEEPER THINKING
Dinnertime is the perfect time to ask questions and get the kids to stretch their thinking. Mix it up so conversations are new and engaging for all ages. Use dinner as a time to subtly teach basic life values or other important things that might be hard to talk about in every day situations.
We have started having our kids pick something they will look forward to during school. They can’t pick recess or lunch. We are trying to teach them how we all have to do things that aren’t our favorite and how to find the bright spots in them. It’s made for some good discussions.Tracy H.
HOW TO MAKE DINNER TIME FUN
There are lots of great books and games out there to help get the conversations started at the dinner table. It may seem a little weird at first, especially if you’re used to eating in silence or being entertained by the tv. But just give it a try! They’re really so fun for the whole family, for young kids and teens, alike!
You can also make dinner time fun by making up your own questions! Get your kids involved and sit down for family night one night. Come up with as many crazy, sentimental, or normal questions as you can. One question might take you all dinner long, so you probably don't need too many to get the conversation juices flowing.
Recently we’ve started these Best Of battles:
What’s the best chair? drink? condiment? etc.
We start by listing every possible one we can think of (like a high chair, kneeling office chair, glider, toilet seat, and so on, set them all up bracket-style (32 or 64 options work great!), then we battle them out, two at a time. It’s been so interesting hearing from our kids, what they think, and why. We’ve not made it through a full competition in one dinner because we get so caught up in the conversation.Heather B.
MAKE COOKING AND CLEANING FUN
Make cooking dinner fun. Sing. Play music. ENJOY EACH OTHER! In our family, we have #PageDanceParties galore (if you haven't noticed on Instagram…). It's a way to lighten the mood in the kitchen and make mealtimes so much FUN. It's a breath of fresh air for Bubba or me to come home after a long day and walk into an atmosphere of energy and brightness. Part of that is due to our karaoke machine that has fun lights on it. 😉
Dance parties help, I promise. Same with clean-up! It doesn't have to be a battle, or be a source of contention or dread. Get that family cleaning together! Haven't you seen Mary Poppins?
…aaaaaand…SNAP! The job's a game. Add some sugar to your medicine and it will taste much better, I promise. Mary says so.
So now do you see the importance of eating dinner as a family? Just put a little more thought into your mealtimes as a family, and it will pay off for generations to come. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a #PageDanceParty to attend.
What do YOU do to make your family dinner time more fun? Leave a comment and share, I'd love to hear from you!
Looking for more great ideas?
- We've got 7 cheap ways for you to start a family tradition today, so be sure to try them out!
- Need some after-school snack ideas to help get the kids to dinner time?
- Try out these 5 daily activities that will strengthen your family!
Now go enjoy your family!
When i was growing up, we had dinner every night around the table at 5:30. My mom would alternate meats throughout the week. On Saturdays for dinner, it was either burritos or a barbeque. If we needed to leave soon after dinner, we’d have “5 min cleanup”. With 6 kids, it could get done fast.
Now with my own kids, we have dinner around the table as well. I also try to alternate meats and Wednesday is usually spaghetti night. They are old enough to help and it makes the time fly. They’ve also started getting in the habit of asking if i need help. Also, even if they helped make dinner, they also help clean up. None of this one person doing all the clean up and dishes. I HATE that.
Those are awesome ideas! I, too, like the idea of everyone helping clean up. Sounds like you have a great system going, thanks for sharing!!
I have our menu for the week posted on the fridge. I have three kids 10,7, and 1. The older two (boys) always help out with dinner but I let them choose how they are going to help. They love being in the kitchen so they usually pick ahead of time how they are going to help. Sometimes that means one will watch his sister while the other brother and I cook and sometimes we all have a job. I love that even at these ages they can both nearly cook several meals on their own. It makes me feel good as a mom to know they won’t be that guy who can’t make themselves a meal when they grow up ;). We have a bible study as a family during breakfast but sometimes we do it during dinner or continue to talk about it at dinner. Otherwise we laugh and joke and be silly. Their is nothing better at a table than good food and lots of laughter. We do something a lot like your sss’s we do highs, lows, and gratefuls. I have found that with an almost teenage boy sometimes getting him to talk is tough but this is an easy way to get conversation started. Lastly, everyone helps clean up somehow and it’s usually done dance party style (we are huge dance party peeps too!) life is way too stressful even in elementary school so our biggest role at dinner is to show our kids that family time is a time to cut loose and have fun. We are firm believers in living for eachother laughing with eachother and loving on eachother.
That sounds like bliss. Thanks for sharing your family successes, makes me so excited for when my kids get older!
We made a “technology timeout” box we use when we are having “family time” like dinner or games. If we need to unplug…the cell phones and gadgets go in there for their own time out and we get some much needed uninterrupted time!
I too post my menu on the side of the fridge. My kids can’t read yet, but it helps my husband know how to plan his lunches based on the size of the meal I am planning for dinner.
We also share about our day…for kids, they have to tell us the same number of things as they are age (3 year old tells you 3 things)…adults go by decades (30 year old tells you 3 things). It’s a great conversation starter and it helps me to know what their favorite parts were!
That’s awesome! I love those ideas, thanks for sharing!!
Once we were in middle school my mom would make us go around the table and tell one thing about our day. You weren’t allowed to use a cop-out answer either. Since my dad tended to dominate the table it gave each of us kids a chance to participate. Also, if she felt we gave a bad answer we’d have to share something else. It was a good incentive to provide a decent answer the first time around.