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.
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.
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.
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.