So, now you know why family meals are so important. By this point, Phase 6, you should have decided what mechanism you will use for the first time you and your kids get together for a meal. Let everyone have food to eat before you begin to explain about having meals together.
One reminder: Absolutely NO reprimanding. Do not correct your kids for not completing school assignments on time or getting low grades or not trying, not cleaning their plate, and so on. Save those topics for another time. It is much more important that your kids WANT to participate. If it is just another day, nothing will change. Take charge of your positive direction.
It is really important is to let everyone serve themselves. They can eat the foods they want and not eat other foods. Those meals do not have to be well-rounded, well-balanced meals. The fact that they pass a dish to someone who asked for that item causes interaction. The more interaction involved, the easier it will become for everyone at the table to get to know each other. Sometimes, they will simply pass a dish to someone who asks. Other times, they may say something – anything – to the person they are passing that meal to. It does not matter what they say. What does matter is that they talk to each other. The more they talk, the more comfortable they will feel about interacting with each other. And, the more they will talk with each other when they are away from the table. THAT is what you really want to happen. These meals and activities are just a method to get to that point.
If you simply cannot get them to start talking: whole sentences rather than just one word below is a suggestion. Ask everyone to tell a rose and a thorn, or positive and a negative from their day. Or, put food on the table and tell everyone to make a funny face or picture with those foods.
Keep in mind that the more laughing everyone does, the more they will look forward to future meals and activities. For example, it is almost impossible not to laugh when you see people making milk mustaches as discussed in last week’s article. Texting photos taken of the event will cause your kids and their friends to show others. In addition to getting your kids to WANT to participate in future activities like this, this is also a great way to learn about your kids’ friends. Some will say that it was a stupid activity or other derogatory comment will go a long way to tell you the type of person those kids are.
Do you want your kids hanging out with those kinds of kids? Or, the friends who laugh and say it was funny, or better yet, ask to be invited the next time that’s done. Would you prefer that your kids hang out with those types of friends?
When they are laughing and having fun doing silly things as well as eating, ask for input regarding what they want to do for future meals. Write down all of their suggestions. If you get lots of suggestions, let them decide what activities and/or foods they want for the next meal. If you do not get many suggestions, you should already have your own list of suggestions to get things moving.
Ask them how they feel about inviting their friends to meals and activities once every two or three weeks. Your ultimate goal should be to interact with your own kids. However, if you need a “carrot” to get them on board, inviting their friends occasionally might be the solution.
Before the end of this meal, be sure to get answers for the following:
- Everyone agree to the date for the next meal.
- What menu should be served for the next meal?
- Will there be a game or event included?
- Who will do which tasks at the next meal? Keep safety in mind with you children cutting or chopping. They can also use the blender.
- If it will be Make Your Own (pizza or taco or salad, etc.), consider time prior to the meeting for the pizza dough to rise, taco meat to be cooked, cutting, prepping, etc.
Suggestions for Fun Things to Serve or Do
- Homemade milkshakes: make a list of flavors they can have (make sure you have the ingredients to make all flavors that are offered)
- Make homemade ice cream: if you have an electric ice cream maker, let the kids mix together the ingredients and pour the mixture into the electric ice cream parlor, put the top on, add rock salt, put the ice cream parlor in a tub in a nearby room (so the noise does not interrupt dinner conversation), turn it on and eat dinner. By the time dinner has been finished, the ice cream should be ready to have for dessert.
- Let the kids spoon their dish of ice cream directly from the inside container if the ice cream maker (Mom/Dad: let the kids do it!).
- Put several toppings in small cereal-type bowls on the table and let the kids make their masterpieces.
- Be sure to take a photo of each ice cream artist holding his or her finished ice cream masterpiece.
- Photos are really important because they help everyone remember the fun AND many times they will share those photos with their friends.
- After photos have all been taken, everyone gets to enjoy their masterpieces!
- Around holidays: Make popcorn balls or Rice Krispie Treats to serve for dessert.
- Make family silhouettes
- Before this event, get butcher paper or 11 x 16 sketch paper.
- Tape a piece to the wall using painters tape (so you don’t ruin painted walls).
- Aim a desk lamp so the light fills the entire sketch paper.
- Take turns with each child being a model (face sideways [NOT facing the light]).
- Let another child be the artist who traces the silhouette that shows up on the sketch pad.
- Carefully cut out the silhouette.
- Glue it using glue stick onto contrasting poster board.
- Have the artist (the child who traced the silhouette) autograph their masterpiece.
- Take a picture of the artist, the model, and the finished product to put in a scrap book (be sure to have the date and time on the photo).
- Guess how long it will take?
- During dinner, ask each person to describe what their roasted marshmallow will look like and how long it will take to roast the marshmallow.
- Write the description on a small piece of paper and also the length of time.
- Light a fire log in a fire pit, roast marshmallows and make s’mores.
- Mom and Dad can time how long each child takes to roast his/her marshmallows.
- Person closest to the time gets a Certificate that was created before the dinner.
- Fun Food Games
- Story Night: turn lights off, light candles in the middle of the table, and make up stories to tell as everyone eats dinner.
- Conduct a science experiment. See the websites below for suggested experiments.
- Origami Masterpieces. Examples below. You will only need to provide colored paper.
- Plan a family vacation or weekend getaway. All details from the time you leave home until the time you return home
Family Activities (weekend activity)
- Letter of the Day Walk I started this when I needed to work walking into our schedule and get the kids to go along. We started with the letter “A” and told everyone who was walking that they needed to find 25 items that began with the letter “A”. They could get very creative about the items they found; however, they could only use one word one time:
- A = puffy white clouds could be called Aerodynamic Asymmetric clouds (2 of the 3 words had to begin with the letter “A”).
- What happens most of the time is each child helps those who are struggling to find “A” words. If someone finishes their 25 items, everyone helps those who are struggling, which helps bonding.
- The next time you walk, the next letter in the alphabet is chosen.
- We even let some participants pick up small items that began with the letter of the day and those items were taped to a piece of paper that was inserted into a sheet protector and put into a 3-ring binder.
- Concert in the Park: Many cities offer a variety of free summer concerts. They are great for picnic meals, lawn chairs (or blankets), and having a fun night. Some even offer fireworks.
- Your local Visitor Center provides a host of free things to do, which many times includes free concerts.
- Your local state parks websites also offers a wide variety of free activities.
- Scavenger Hunt. This one might take inviting your kids’ friends so you can have teams.
- Pick Your Own Fruits and Veggies
- Water Balloon Fights
- Go to a Museum or Planetarium
- Guess How Much Water It Takes
- Equipment needed: Cookie sheet or flat container with sides, cup or shallow bowl, water, coins.
- Put the cup or bowl on a cookie sheet or flat container with sides.
- Fill the cup or shallow bowl almost all the way to the top.
- Each family member will be given a small supply of coins.
- Everyone takes turns dropping one coin in the water cup.
- The winner is the person who makes the water flow over the top of the water cup.
- You will need a variety of age appropriate gifts (separated into bags so the winner can reach in and grab a gift.
- It will be even more fun if the gifts are gift wrapped
- Trivia & Game Night (examples and suggestions below)
- National Institutes of Health Environment Games, Riddles, and winter holiday games
- National Geographic Brain Games
- Fun Trivia
- Buzzle Trivia Questions for Kids
- World Travel Guide Trivia for Kids
- Themed Dinner
- Dedicate one night each month for a themed dinner. Examples: make your own pizza, Neanderthal night (no one uses utensils!), funny food face night (everyone makes faces using their foods before eating them). Always take photos of end results.
- Food Toss: toss mini marshmallows, popcorn, M&Ms, etc. to see how many can be caught in their mouths.
- House of Cards: take turns stacking cards to form houses or other structures.
- Design a Family Website: This will take several weekend times to complete. There are free websites that are easy to use that can be used such as Weebly. You can write stores, include photos, scan artwork and post it, successes your kids have. Weebly is easy enough to use that even the youngest kids can do it.
- Create a Photo Scavenger Hunt: This will also help everyone to be more aware of their surroundings. Create a list of things that need to be found and a photo taken to prove it was found. The list can be as easy or as difficult as you want, depending on the age of kids involved. We did one using letters of the alphabet. Everyone was given a form that I created with all of the letters on the left side and spaces on the right. They did not have to find the items in alphabetical order. Some results were fun to see. The letter “A” was a photo of a child’s swing set that was in a neighbor’s yard. By looking at the swing set from the side, the A-frame that held the swing set up, made the letter “A” because of the cross bar in the middle of the frame.
- By the way, I had to really look hard to see the letter K with the sharp left turn sign that you see along the side of the road. The left edge of the sign completes the K!
- The best part of this kind of scavenger hunt is that YOU do not need to create a list. Let your kids find the letters themselves.
- Give them a couple of hours to find as many letters as possible. When they all return with their list and photos, be sure to have some prizes. Everyone will get a prize. Prizes can be simple games you get from a dollar store.
- Play the soundtrack for a movie that we all loved seeing and see who can name the part of the movie that the music was played during the movie.
- Make a scrapbook page for a planning session. My family gets pretty wild with this. One page has a piece of real net that goes across 2 pages and is “tied” to a “tree” on both pages, we made “water” by using finger paints and sprinkled blue glitter on the paint before it dried. Another time, we made a “movie theater” by securing fabric on both sides and across the top so it looks like the stage at a school concert.
- My 19-year-old granddaughter still asks to make scrapbook pages when we do special things. She got her father to agree to make a scrapbook page with her. I bought the supplies while we were on vacation so she and he could do it together.
You are Ready!
After you have considered all of the above, in both Phase 2 and Phase 3, it is time to schedule a family meeting, which is when you will introduce Family Meals Nights, Quality Family Activities, and Friends & Family Nights:
- Goals & expectations
- Quick and easy meals
- What you will serve for the meeting
- Ideas that you will offer to get “buy-in” from the kids
- Activities that you can do
Next Week: Finale and Celebration: will be published on 8/31/2017