Dinner Games: Feasting on Family Fun
by Mitzi C. Smith
I was concerned. Every day after school my routine question “How was your day?” was answered with “Fine” or a simple shrug of the shoulders from my eldest son, Caleb.
I began to question his silence. Was he in trouble? Was there a bully? My mind filled with worrying thoughts. The more I questioned, the more frustrated Caleb became. I decided dinner time would be our best opportunity for some casual conversation.
As a family, we had decided to make dinnertime a top priority. All electronics are shut down. If someone calls during dinner, we simply return the call later. This is our time together that remains uninterrupted. We value this time as our most important part of our day. Everything else can wait.
I searched for discussion starters and game ideas that were hands-free and perfect to play during meals. And the good news is that my idea worked! Every day my boys ran to the table for more family fun. We played ABC games, using the alphabet to name animals, places we would like to visit or cartoon characters. We created stories with each family member adding on a sentence until we had a wild and wacky tale. We shared jokes and quizzed each other on everything from biblical characters to holidays. Since beginning the dinner game ritual, we’ve created many variations. The games are usually silly and end with a lot of laughter.
I am amazed at how much we have discovered about each other through this simple daily ritual. I have learned about favorite recess activities, friends and my children’s hopes and dreams for the future.
My younger child, Elijah, also has reaped tremendous benefits. Many of the games we play practice patterns, letter sounds or require memorization. Without realizing it, my younger son has strengthened basic learning skills that will increase his success in years to come.
Since starting to play dinner games, my family chooses to eat dinner at home where we can relax and take our time. However, I must confess, I’m not the best cook. Though my culinary skills are limited, my sons rave over dinner claiming I’m the best cook ever! The secret? They’re too consumed by the games to notice. Each day my family is eating a well-balanced meal. Best of all, the money we would have spent on fast food is kept in our wallet.
The simplistic moments shared through dinner games have strengthened our family’s foundation. Our time around the table has opened communication and helped us to realize that we are family and no matter what, we are loved.
Mitzi Smith is a freelance writer with a master’s degree in elementary education. She lives in South Carolina with her husband, Daniel, two sons, Caleb and Elijah, and a spoiled Maltese named Millie.