Shutterstock / Elzbieta Sekowska
For a lot of us, some of our best memories from childhood took place around the kitchen table. Mom’s classic meatloaf, the way Dad always snuck an extra roll when he thought she wasn’t looking…cue all the nostalgia. If you now have a family of your own, creating new memories with your kids is important. Here are some of our readers’ favorite traditions that you can steal for your next mealtime.
She Started the Conversation
“My mom took an old mason jar and filled it with funny conversation starters. At the start of every meal, one of us would pick a paper and whatever we pulled out was what we talked (and laughed) about during dinner.”
This is an easy DIY—make your own conversation jar by cutting up strips of construction paper and write the funniest or most thought-provoking questions you can think of. The kids can help come up with ideas, too.
She Turned the Kitchen into a Cafe
“About once or twice a month, we’d turn our kitchen into Cafe Frank (our last name). The kids were the servers and our parents were the guests. We would take their orders, prepare the food and serve them. It was one of my favorite memories!”
Every kid loves to play pretend which is why this idea will be such a hit with most families. Go the extra mile by decorating your makeshift restaurant, buying cheap order pads and aprons for your “servers” and even tipping a little extra allowance for super service.
She Jammed Out
“Cooking dinner was basically a party at our house. Before Dad came home, Mom would turn on the music super loud and my sister and I would dance around in the kitchen with her while she cooked. The memory still puts a smile on my face.”
Creating the right atmosphere is key to making happy memories in the kitchen. A pre-meal dance party or a dish washing contest makes chores feel more like play.
She Never Forgot Dessert
“I always looked forward to dessert at dinner (like these 85 easy dessert ideas). Even if it was just some canned fruit with whipped cream, my mom would serve it in these fancy glass ice cream bowls. It was a nice treat at the end of every day.”
Sometimes, it’s the little things. A pretty presentation or fancy table setting can turn a rushed weeknight dinner into a memorable meal.
She Knew How to Get the Gang Involved
“Growing up in an Italian family, pizza was a huge staple for us. Once a week, we had make-your-own-pizza night, making classics or deliciously weird pizzas. It’s how I first started learning to cook, and what better way than having fun customizing my own pie.”
Taco Tuesday, Spaghetti Saturday, Sundae Sunday…whatever theme you choose, you can’t go wrong with a build-your-own meal. Giving the kids freedom to pick and choose their toppings is a great way to teach independence and to get picky eaters to try new things.
She Broke the Rules
“Whenever my dad was out of town for work, we had a free-for-all night. My mom would let us heat up those frozen dinners (fried chicken and mashed potatoes with a little brownie!) and eat dinner in front of the TV. It was the only time we were allowed to!”
Breaking the rules every now and then can be fun. And it’s a great bonding opportunity as a parent, so let the kids rule the roost on special nights like birthdays or when Dad is away.
Regardless of what you do or where you do it, having meals as a family is important, especially when kids are younger. It’s meant to be a time to get together without distractions, enjoy each others’ company and, of course, eat some good food while you’re at it.