November 20, 2017

Fun Kid Dinner Ideas: Eat UNDER the Table, Dessert for Dinner!


And all the mommas of the world, shouted, “AMEN!”

Honestly, how does the turn around happen so quickly? I JUST made them dinner!

Let’s make a pledge. Commit to giving ourselves some slack in this department because it can be super stressful and even though I am supposed to be the 10 Minute Dinner guru,  it’s that EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. thing that gets me.

Routinely, one of my favorite questions to ask over on my facebook page is “What’s on everyone’s meal plan tonight?”

It’s amazing, inspiring, and always gives me ideas because people make like three or four things. Yep, they do. For REAL!! They actually cook a main dish, a veggie, a real homemade starch and then dessert.  But the problem with this inspiration?  I then think, “Wow, I suck at my dinners.” (Gasp  – I would never actually breathe that word out loud though because for decades that’s been an “S” word not allowed in our home. ;))

Why do I continue to do this to myself over and over again? I’m drawn to it. Do they really make meals like that?

Then it hits me.

The majority of us who are serving a sandwich and carrot sticks aren’t really going to chime in, right?

Right! And again, all the mommas shout, “Amen.”

Guess what? Turning ordinary meals into something extraordinary doesn’t have to be about the food. In fact, forget any meal planning, serve a can of soup and JUST HAVE FUN!!


Here are some fun family dinner ideas that will just take you a few minutes to implement and they will leave lasting memories on your kids for decades to come. (And they are perfect for those sandwich and carrot stick nights.)

Since earlier we talked about what to do with picky eaters, this will be a breeze because it’s all about fun!

Eat UNDER the Table

All our kids still remember the nights when we’d eat under the table. I literally would set all the place settings, complete with place mat, fancy glasses and candles and call them to dinner. I’ll never forget the first time. They all pondered, “What are we doing?”

You can play this over numerous ways. Act as if this is the most natural thing in the world and that we are the last family to do this or you can make a big production out of announcing them like royalty to the famous Gala under the table.

How ever you decide, once they gather under that tent like atmosphere, it changes everything. It becomes a new experience. A sense of wonder that they will remember for years. I haven’t done this in awhile. As you can imagine, the last time I did our eldest was a teenager and he rolled his eyes. They couldn’t sit under there any more, so we all laid on our tummies, but again, it was magical and we lingered over our meal mainly because I knew it might be the last time.

Backwards Night

This is always a blast and it requires no extra effort.  So you will be a hero to your kids for just being a fun mom. It’s self explanatory and you can take it to a new level with EVERYTHING backwards. Lead the way with your clothes on backwards, glasses on the back of your head, hat on backwards etc. You can turn pictures around, chair around – you determine how creative you want to be. Then encourage your kids to turn the their clothes around (which for many with toddlers that probably occurs regularly anyhow. 😉 and come to the table for their backwards food.

If you don’t want to take it that far, just call them to the table and surprise them with dessert for dinner!!

This is where you want to make a big deal out of the tone of your words by announcing that you are having “Cake, Ice Cream (whatever you choose) for dinner,” making sure everyone saves room and clears their plate or they won’t be able to have the delicious peas for dessert.  Have fun teasing with them throughout the meal.

“Are you so excited for the peas?” I bet you can’t wait? Save room for dessert. 🙂 ”

Really make this part fun.

Around the World Theme Night

Mexican food definitely tops the list as one of our favorite choices. Next week, don’t just serve tacos, but make it a Mexican theme night. Encourage everyone to spontaneously find one unique fact about Mexico, and bring it to the table. I don’t mean spend hours researching, but just take one minute to google fun facts about Mexico, and share those.

Once you get started, the kids will think it’s a blast, or as my teenage son reminded, “Maybe not a blast mom, but …umm…interesting.”

Mexican hat dance, anyone?

Here are a few fun Mexico facts to get your started. I did the work for you.

Did you know that:

Mexico City was built on a lake?

Mexico introduced chocolate to the world? (So appreciative)

Mexico is the most populous Spanish speaking country in the world?
Mexico City is sinking at a rate of 6 to 8 inches a year because it’s built on top of an underground reservoir?

This idea works well with any number of ethnic foods that you enjoy serving like my Chinese Sesame Chicken. It puts a great twist on just regular spaghetti, so I do believe after Mexico, it’s onto Italy and China.

 Last Minute Memorable Moments – “Just Because” Picnic

Take Dinner on the Road or Change the Ambiance

I’ve shared through the years how something easy like a spontaneous dinner “on the road” idea becomes a memorable event.  It could be a walk down the block and eat on the side walk or why not hop in the car and let the kids navigate. For Real. Let them tell you every turn to make for five minutes and when the five minutes are up, eat there. 🙂  Don’t over think  it.

So whether it’s eating on the ground, (check out that post), eating by candlelight at every meal (one of my traditions), embracing mealtime magic with the joy of an unexpected blessing or any of the above mentioned suggestions, dinner can not just be memorable, but magical.

Focus on the Experience

Remove the pressure to create that intricately prepared meal and relax in the memories nestled in their hearts that you created by just being intentional about a crazy,  fun meal time every now and then.

While I want you to focus on the experience and not the food, I do have some super fun kid food ideas that you can whip up in minutes, just in case.  🙂

Fun Food Ideas for your Kids Fun Family Food Ideas: Make some Foodimals

Conversation Starter questions My Free Gift to You: Our Family Dinner Questions

Conversation Starters and Dinner Questions Just for you!

And lastly, dinner time isn’t about just food.  If you haven’t downloaded my free gift of printable Conversation Starters, run and do that. It changed the way we do meal time, and it’s a tradition going strong after a decade.

P.S I highly encourage the “Under the Table” night to correspond with an evening you are too tired to clean that table off. 😉

Have you done any fun or crazy dinner ideas?

I’d love to hear about them.

31 Days with a Mentor Mom @beautyandbedlam What Should I Do For a Picky Eater?

Are you following along with my Mentor Mom series? You can find them here.


  1. Loved these ideas! Sounds like these could be serious fun and make awesome memories! Pinning it!


  2. So many fun ideas!! 🙂


  3. When my kids were little we would have a picnic in front of the fireplace in the winter. We would have a picnic basket, red checkered tablecloth on the rug, roast hog dogs and make smores. They loved it!!!


    Jen Reply:

    Aren’t those such great memories. With the weather finally starting to drop, I can’t wait for cozy nights in front of the fire. We don’t have them enough and we should..


  4. I have to try dinner under the table. I’m sure my 4 year old will think it is hilarious.
    When my husband is away on business my son and I often have a pyjama party dinner. We get into our pyjamas and have cereal for dinner while sitting on the living room floor watching a movie. Not only does he not put up a fight about eating cereal but he’s also already dressed for bed 🙂


    Jen Reply:

    Those are such cozy nights, aren’t they? I LOVE THOSE!


  5. Ha ha! It’s like summer camp at home! Our motto at our house is “no such thing as ‘not camp'”. We really need to expand this to mealtime. Superhero lunch anyone?


  6. I’m one of those with the main dish, and two sides. BUT – I keep it simple – almost easier than making sandwiches… So, I rarely speak up because who wants to talk about chicken legs cooked in butter (took 5 minutes of prep time and 1 hr in the oven) rice (5 min prep time) and a veggie steamed (5 min prep time….) And me – I’m training the kids to clean – like you. BUT, I haven’t done the fun stuff like you that is where I REALLY fall short. Maybe I’ll start tonight – left over spaghetti under the table – with everything backwards….


  7. Michelle K says:

    Dinner under the table would be great since that’s where my 21 month old’s food usually ends up anyways!!! LOL!!!

    I like the idea of taking dinner on the road to the park or somewhere they choose. Thanks for yet another great post.


  8. Leslie Lane says:

    When my kids were young we would have messy night as a reward for a weeks worth of good table manners. The kids chose the menu and they could eat their food however they wanted to. No one used silverware, they lapped up their mashed potatoes, corn and sloppy joes with hands, or just stuck their faces in the plate. My daughter even lapped her milk out of a bowl like a cat! At 24 and 22 they still remember those dinners with great joy! I have the pictures to prove it!


    Jen Reply:

    OH MY GOODNESS! Leslie – I LOVE that! Seriously? Send me through the pictures and that would be an awesome one to share. 🙂


  9. My mom made “egg carton dinner” when we were playing outside in the summer. She put something – cheese, carrot sticks, hard-boiled egg, etc. – in each of the egg nests and we ate outside. Still one of my favorite memories.


  10. It’s so wonderful what a little jog from the ordinary can do. Love this post!


  11. Hi Jen, those are great suggestions for dinner time! I have an 11 year old daughter and a 16 year old son who love the whole instragram thing lately so for dinner time we have always had a rule no ipods, iphones or tv on during this time. You won’t believe they actually engage in great conversations from about school to friends etc. Quality family time is so important at these ages. I read an pinterest quote about communication ” The problems with communication is those who listen to understand and those who listen to reply”. Sometimes in this busy world we have to just slow down and listen!


    Jen Reply:

    I love that quote. It’s TOO true and I know we want to be those moms who listen. 🙂


  12. Love these ideas! It’s amazing how sometimes simple things can make a huge difference. Making it, “fun,” is not only for the kids… I find that if I plan something fun (which I don’t do often enough) I’m much more inspired to actually make the dinner as well.

    The most fun, and truly easiest (even though it’s sounds involved) dinner that we ever did, was a scavenger hunt dinner:

    I also love our annual “Green Feast,” for St. Patrick’s Day:


    Jen Reply:

    Julie – so true. I’m more inspired as well! I LOVE your scavenger hunt idea. Thanks for sharing.


  13. Helen Callaghan says:

    LOVE THIS!!! Pinned it and our family is trying the “Dinner on the Road” idea tonight. My kids will be SO excited to tell us where to go. 🙂 Thanks for the conversation starter page. Great resource. Excited I found this website of great family ideas!


    Jen Reply:

    So glad!! Let me know how it goes. 🙂


  14. how about a beach theme? Any fish or fowl found at the beach. Or use the letters of the word to decide (lake, river, ocean) what to have. The same with going up north to the cabin.

    Try using the title of a book or movie or even a video game to inspire the theme.

    A child’s age could inspire you – at age six it could be things that come in sixes I.e. Eggs, six sausages, corn on the cob, or even the price has to have a six in it.

    Spell out the word Autumn or Fall with food words…Franks, applesauce, and lotsa lettuce.

    How about National cupcake day? (or whatever National day it happens to be) and the whole meal is shaped like a cupcake!

    I could go on and on but I think you get it. 🙂


    Jen Reply:

    I LOVE these, Colleen!! Thanks for thinking of some more great ideas. 🙂


  15. My kids love these dinners! We need to bring it back. Haven’t done it in awhile. We’ve done a theme color night where we dress in that color only, costume night, fancy night, and music night where we guess the title and singer of the song. Great post, I hope more families enjoy dinner together this way!


    Jen Reply:

    I LOVE that guess the song and singer idea!! HOW FUN!!



  1. […] Have dinner on the ground or under the table […]

  2. […] Play 3. Do some geocahcing. Classic Play 4. Water balloon phonics. Mess for less 5. Have some fun themed dinner nights for kids. Beauty and bedlam 6. Have a volunteer vacation. Family vacation critic 7. Learn […]

  3. […] Backwards Dinner Night from Balancing Beauty & Bedlam […]

Share Your Thoughts