Family Fun Around the Dinner Table

It’s 2014, and I think our family is part of an estimated 3.7%* of the Western world’s population that still sits down at the table to eat supper together most nights of the week. (*I made that statistic up, but you get the idea.)  In our house, this phenomenon is made possible by what I like to call our “Perfect Storm of Availability”: tiny humans not yet overly involved in zany extracurriculars, a SAHD who cooks almost every night of the week, and a mom who works very reasonable hours and is home at roughly the same time each day.  I know that eventually, our family dynamic will change, and we won’t always eat together at one specific time every day of the week.  Still, it’s important to my husband and I that we make the family dinner a priority, especially as the kids get older and our schedules get busier.  I know that not every family has this luxury, and there are nights when Superman is at class and I am mighty tempted to just curl up on the couch with a bowl of cereal after the kids are  in bed.   Mostly, though, I look forward to our family suppers together.  We have a lot of fun at our dinner table, and it’s over food and beverage that our kids really open up and talk to us.  I love that food does that!  Think about it – when we grab a cup of coffee with a friend or go to happy hour with coworkers or celebrate a birthday – most of our most meaningful memories with friends and family revolve around food.  Our family table is no different.

Conversation at suppertime can sometimes be awkward or halting or downright boring, especially when your kids answer your questions with one-word answers.  “How was school?”  “Fine.”  What did you learn today?” “Nothing.”  Allllllllrighty then.  Not sure how to draw more chatter out of your kids (or spouse…or yourself)?  Here’s a little something that has worked well for us, involves everyone, and is much anticipated throughout the day.  We like to call it the “Running Story Game.”  One of us picks an animal, a vehicle, or a musical instrument – or all three! – and begins telling an original story. Each person shares around 4-5 sentences.  Then the next person adds a bit more, and so on. We usually go around the table 3-4 times by the time we’re finished eating.  To give you an example of some of the hilarity that has ensued, I’ve included a few of our favorite Running Story summaries!

  • A tale including 150 talking giraffes that drove a yellow Hummer with a sunroof and who, at times, stood at opposite ends of the kid owner’s backyard to act as really tall goalposts. And then they went to jail for reasons unknown. When they were released, they were overall-wearing Old Man Giraffes that went to have coffee.
  •  A story about a unicorn, reindeer and a dragon trapped in a cabin during a blizzard. They had hot chocolate and they were kept warm by a fire lit by the dragon’s breath. Apparently, there was also a painful incident between the unicorn and dragon when they played Twister to pass the time.  Ouch.
  •  An especially meandering epic about a mouse and a tiger who befriend each other.  The tiger moves into a human’s house that the mouse currently inhabits. Somehow, the tiger gets stuck in the house, and requires the house-springing services of an octopus. The octopus catches a ride to the house in a yellow submarine, staffed by four beetles, one of whom is named Ringo, another of whom is nicknamed Walrus. They fill their recording studio onboard the sub with water, in order to keep the octopus alive en route to the house. The octopus frees the tiger, who goes with the mouse [now named Mickey] to Target for diapers and wipes and candy. Then they go to Kroger, to church, and something about unicorns. Beanstalks, brown eyeballs, and the end.
  •  A thrilling adventure about a treehouse in a tall pineapple tree, which was flooded by a hurricane. During the flood, we all clung to different objects to stay alive: I chose a brontosaurus, Superman chose a sawfish, Nanny chose a 1987 red Ferrari, and Elizabeth chose a fork. We all hung on for dear life but Superman’s sawfish cut us all up and we died. Then the “trontosaurus” (Marie slightly modified the name) met up with Captain Picard after brief discussion, he beamed all of us onto the Enterprise where we were nursed back to health in sick bay. Somehow it became apparent that the sawfish was a timelord. Doctor Who showed up with his TARDIS and took Superman, the sawfish, and the Trontosaurus to 1950s Germany, where everyone lived happily ever after. Ahem.

I could go on, but you get the gist.  These stories are priceless.

We also like to use dinnertime to catechize and educate.  We play “Guess Who,” where Mommy and Daddy give clues about a saint until someone guesses it right; we ask questions about Catholic teachings and discuss the answers; we talk about our favorite Bible stories.  We talk about our favorite time periods in history – what people wore and ate during that time, and we ponder aloud what they did for entertainment.  We discuss episodes of “Chopped” and how we are going to strategize and win the yet-to-be-cast Family Week.  We just share whatever comes to our minds.  There are only two rules: don’t be rude and don’t call people names.  Really – sharing this time together over food, without the distractions of electronic devices, is a mini-retreat for me.  I love that I have my kids’ undivided attention, and that they have mine.  Sure, there are days when it’s not all sunshine and roses.  One of us might be a tad cranky, or the 3 year old might be having a meltdown because her carrots are orange and “I don’t YIKE orange fooooood!”  Overall, though, the positive memories outweigh the negative, and we enjoy great meals with even better company!

Speaking of meals – have you checked out my friend Haley and her husband Daniel’s new cookbook yet?

Why isn’t this on your e-reader or printed and on your bookshelf yet?

WHY NOT?!  MORE FEASTS! is an incredible collection of recipes, activities, and essays that will help you enrich your family’s observance of the liturgical year.  I’m especially looking forward to the delicious slow-cooker carnitas featured in the book for today, December 12th – the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!  Don’t forget that to celebrate the book launch, the Stewarts are graciously offering their new book as a digital download (.pdf format) for just $3.99, and for all of Advent, their original cookbook is available as a digital download for $4.99, which is $3 off the usual price of $7.99**!  AAAAAAND, if you order between now and December 15th with the coupon code HAPPYFEAST, you will get an additional 25% off of your ebook purchase.

Oh!  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND, for the first time in Ora et Labora et Maternitas history –

OeLeM's Very First Giveaway

Leave a comment below, sharing your favorite things to do around the dinnertable.  Your comment is your entry to win a digital copy of More Feasts!  The winner will be chosen at random, and will be announced on Tuesday, 12/16.  GET EXCITED!!

**Clicking these links ensure that you will be purchasing from my affiliate link, which in turn helps ensure I can afford coffee.  Please don’t keep me from my coffee.  Please?
More Feasts! Blog Tour

12 thoughts on “Family Fun Around the Dinner Table

    • “Guess Who” has an added educational dimension that I didn’t foresee – after going through all of the Heavy Hitters (St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Therese), I found myself having to research little details about lesser-known saints. Boom. Mommy learning! Bonus: my recently-converted hubby is learning his saints, too. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. AHHH! GIveaways!

    My kiddo is only 1 so we haven’t established family meals regularly (only when I have it together enough to have the mommy-daddy meal ready when the kiddo is ready to eat). My family growing up always tried to have dinner together and it was nice to catch up! Even in the age of everyone having cell phones it seems hard to get everyone on the same page. Great post CajunTexasMom! 🙂

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  2. We play name that tune and the kids hum songs we have to guess. We do well until they start making up songs! And they love learning things at the table so we often do trivia with multiple choice answers and then that gets us talking about science and history and our family history. They especially love old stories from when we were little or about their great-grandparents. We do family dinners almost every night!

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  3. Our small family dinner includes our almost-2 year old and my husband’s brother who lives with us. So that means our only tradition thus far is watching the toddler and her antics. Sometimes she’s just the cutest thing and we are laughing with her, and sometimes we just put her down to play…Growing up we always had great conversation around the table, I still treasure having my family over for dinner and just sharing our lives together!

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  4. Hey there, found you through Haley’s blog hop! Sounds like such a fun game you play! Don’t know if my kids would be able to do that just yet, but maybe… Currently (like, for the last few weeks) our favorite thing to do is to discuss who’s turn it is to blow out the Advent candles. They also, all enjoy trying to talk at once 🙂

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    • Hi, Ruth Anne! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 We currently have a good bit of candle-snuffing debate around here, too. There’s also a lot of “spirited” discussion about whose turn it is to put the ornament on the Jesse Tree.

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      • Oh, yes, I forgot the Jesse Tree… I finally declared days where each kid gets to blow a candle and do the ornament (they still try to debate it though). There’s three kids wanting a turn so it works out well for them each to have two days a week. 🙂

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