I am a big supporter of sitting down to meals as a family. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy pizza while watching a movie every now and then too. But, because we are a blended family, we are not together every night. And when we are together, we experience the same things that everyone else does… school activities, family events, dinner with friends. There is a lot of research out there on the benefits of sitting down to mealtime together as a family and I believe that we almost need to make more of an effort now days because we have so many more ways to not be present in the moment.
Because our mealtimes are less frequent, we want to make the most of them. We want them to have purpose and be powerful to the foundation of what we are teaching our children simply by being together as a unit. Whether we are wanting to connect and laugh together, talk about something serious, or create a space where they are comfortable to ask questions, open up and be vulnerable by sharing, the conversation activities listed below are a great way to do so. Much like the kid survey from my first post, it is amazing what we can learn about our children when we can sit and focus on asking questions and listening.
There are so many great ideas out there but here are a few of our favorites:
Highs & Lows:
My friend Jill shared this one with me years ago, and has always been a family favorite and you don’t need a thing to make it happen!
- Choose who goes first. Sometimes we start with the youngest, or oldest, or whoever feels ready to start.
- The first person shares the low part of their day – something that was a challenge or a bummer. Then they share the high of their day – what was the best, the highlight, what filled them with joy.
- Discuss as needed, asking questions or for more detail.
- Move on to the next person and repeat.
Family Dinner Conversation Starters:
My step-son Grady, brought this game home from school one day. It was a mason jar that they had painted on the inside so you couldn’t see through the glass. Inside, were all these little pieces of paper with questions on them. You can re-create this and keep it as simple or fancy it up as much as you want. This would be a great activity to make over the weekend with the kids so they can be part of it. You simply pass the jar around the table, pull out a question. Read your question out loud and answer it. Be prepared for others to want to share their own stories too! You can go through as many topics as you want!
Here are the questions in our jar:
Did you see somebody that needed help today? What did you do?
What is one thing that happened today that made you feel smart?
Tell a story about something that really happened today and make up a story. I’ll guess which is true.
Ask me whatever you want.
Tell me about something you read or had read to you today.
Who did you eat lunch with?
Tell me about something nice that someone did for you today?
What would you like to do this weekend?
Tell me about something you saw that made you feel sad today.
What is something that you are proud of and why?
Pick one food on your plate and then tell me about something you saw today that starts with the same letter.
What is something that you are wondering about?
What is the funniest thing that happened to you today?
If you could change something about today, what would it be?
Describe something you saw outside today.
Finish the sentence… “Have I ever told you about…”
What was the most challenging thing that you did today?
Tell me about something nice that you did for someone today.
What did you learn about today?
If somebody were to write a newspaper article about something that happened to you today, what would the headline be?
Adventures in Odyssey is a great program from Focus on the Family. We have a book of theirs that takes you through a thought process of a certain idea. Here is an excerpt from the book Mealtime Devotions.
In a Pickle?
Mealtime Prayer: Give thanks to God that He is with us in all situations and will guide and direct our lives.
Q: What is green and bumpy and red all over?
A: A pickle with a sunburn.
How many kinds of pickles can you name?
Main Course: Ever gotten yourself into a pickle? Not a bumpy, green pickle, of course, but a difficult situation. What happened? The Bible gives examples of people who got themselves into “pickles” and how God helped them:
- Daniel ended up in a lions’ den because he prayed, but God kept the lions from hurting him (Daniel 6).
- Jonah disobeyed God and ended up inside the belly of a big fish (yuck!). He prayed to God, and the fish spit him out (Jonah 2).
- When Paul and Silas were in prison for preaching the gospel, they prayed and sang hymns of praise. God sent an earthquake, and their chains fell off (Acts 16).
- Who deserved their “pickles,” and who didn’t? Why?
- How do we sometimes end up in a pickle?
- What did the Bible characters above do to get out of trouble? What should we do?
- Will God help us go out of our pickles? Why or why not?
Vitamins and Minerals: Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (James 5:13)
What are you doing to connect with your families over mealtime? I am always looking for new ideas and would love to hear what your traditions are!