There are so many ways to show your child that they are loved and mealtimes are a great chance to do that. Using your creativity to show your love can provide your kids with wonderful memories that they can cherish into adulthood. Here are a few ideas to get you started..
1. Own a Special plate. My mom had this cool plate for us while we were growing up and I loved it. We got the privilege of using the special plate whenever we did something good (good grade, birthday, or just for the heck of it!) I always love this tradition and use it with my family now. Here's the link if you'd like to purchase the Special Plate
2. Keep it simple. We eat at the table every night and I enjoy it. As a single mom, making a healthy dinner after we get home at 5:30 can be my biggest struggle. We ALWAYS have a better night when I am able to spend a little time with them instead of spending 45 minutes cooking then cleaning up. Therefore, heating up leftovers, having food ready in the crockpot, or ordering out can be a lifesaver.
3. Engage Children in the Process. If you plan ahead, you can ask your kids to pick a meal and help you get the ingredients at the grocery store (and even help you stir or pour ingredients into the bowls). Another idea? Children of all ages seem to love making Place cards for other family members (or guests). Set your child up with materials to make place cards while you get dinner ready.
4. Engage. Not every mealtime has to be a blast but making mealtimes fun will engage children in the process. Make a schedule and have each kid be in charge of picking out what they want for dinner one night a week (WARNING: provide choices or you may be eating ice cream every week!) Pick a country such as Italy or Mexico and make a recipe from that county (don't worry-tacos or pizza is creative enough!) Bonus: Find a new word from that country and use it while you are having dinner!
5. Question game. This is something you can do every night. Get your kids talking by asking what is their least favorite part of their day and best part of their day. Another game the kids like to play is taking turns saying "what I like about you is...."
6. Don't fight. Don't set your expectations too high but expecting kids to eat most of what's on their plate is reasonable. If your child doesn't want to come to the table, ask one of the kids to turn the t.v off in 2 minutes and then have them turn the t.v off. If they still won't come to the table, tell them the t.v still goes off during dinner hour and tell them you will put their plate in the fridge until later but they will be eating by themselves.
Although all of these ideas are fun, the important thing is just being together. Remember, your kids (especially teenagers) might complain "UGH! family dinner is ridiculous!" but years from now they will look back with a smile and remember those special moments with family!