Fun Family Meals
Archived Articles by Shaina Olmanson
I'm not going to lie to you and say all family dinners are fun. There are nights where the kids are so loud and wild and distracted that my husband and I sit in our corner of the table staring knowingly at each other, the gaze between us communicating one thing only: Where's the button that makes them disappear so we can eat in peace?
Still, the family dinner is something we do nightly, sitting down to talk and eat together, watching how our children choose foods, trying to instill in them some form of manners. "No, you may not eat mashed potatoes with your fingers." "Please refrain from painting the table with your egg yolk."
A time to come together and teach our kids the importance of eating well, to share stories from the day, to let them know we're there. A family dinner provides all of that, and it also provides a place for my kids to be comedians, constantly trying to one-up the other. In our house, family dinner can start to look like amateur comedy night even when it's unintentional.
It's the time of the day where we realized that our youngest daughter can smell and taste just about any flavor. She will pick out if there's rosemary in a dish. She knows if you added nutmeg to the cinnamon rolls. She can instantly tell if there is lemon in the fish or if it's lime. It's turned into a game of "Name that Spice" every night at dinnertime.
We teach our kids what different cuts of meat are, where vegetables grow, and then we laugh when they refer to the beef stew as "cow stew" and the bacon strips as "pig pieces." I can still remember the night that my daughter started calling chicken "bird," as in, "I really like bird for dinner, Dad," and, "Are we having bird tonight?"
Some ideas for fun family topics during dinner:
-Talk about where your food comes from. It's great to educate your kids early.
-Think about the colors of a rainbow and what else you ate today. Try to encourage your kids to eat an all natural rainbow of colors on a daily basis.
-Seasoning recognition. While my daughter's talent is very pronounced, getting kids to recognize different flavors in their food can help them become more adventurous eaters.
-Plant versus animal. We like to count the number of plants versus the number of animals at dinnertime, and this can also get into what different ingredients are made out of. For instance, what's in your bread that is being served or the cream sauce that goes over the pasta?
-Heat challenge. When we are eating spicy foods or have foods with condiment options, my kids love to see who can handle the hottest sauce, the most red pepper, or the spicier salsa. We encourage them to keep amounts small, and the kids have grown to appreciate the different kinds of spice they experience, too, like the difference between Thai chili peppers and where wasabi hits you in the nose.
-Discuss the day. Family dinner is also a great time to talk about the fun things that went on during the day. Did they go on a field trip at school, was there a special art project they finished? Avoid discussion of homework, but focus on the positive things they are excited to tell you about.
While not all dinners are pleasant and calm, family dinnertime is a great time to connect with your kids and have fun, engaging conversations about what we eat, how their day was or just to tell jokes.
See what else Shaina is bringing to the table at www.foodformyfamily.com/.