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Speaking of dinner

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By GreatSchools Staff

Make it happen

With soccer practice, homework, and parents working long hours, it can be difficult to schedule regular family meals. Start with small steps — designate one night a week as family dinner night. The meal doesn't have to be fancy, and it can be at home or a restaurant. If you're eating at home, make it a group effort by having everyone help with the preparation and cleanup. If you keep it simple, it will be easier to focus on spending time together.

How to get the conversation flowing

If the typical answer to "What did you learn in school today?" is "Nothing" in your household, you may be wondering how to spark discussions at the dinner table. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a game of it. Conversation starters are a breeze with The Family Dinner Box of Questions, in which players answer questions ranging from "If you could have a wild animal from anywhere in the world as a pet, what animal would you choose?" to "What special talent do you wish you possessed?" Says company cofounder CeCe Feiler, "Even teens who don't normally want to talk will engage in conversation because it's a nonthreatening game."
  • Plan an activity. Ask family members for vacation or field trip ideas, then spend the dinner hour discussing the logistics, costs, and pros and cons of the activities suggested. Get everyone to agree on an outing and mark it on your family calendar.
  • Spotlight a family member with a special plate. Create your own or buy a pre-labeled one at the Red Plate Store Online. Each family member gets to have the special plate on a designated night. Focus the conversation on that person's best qualities — or let him or her pick the menu that night.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/22/2009:
"There could be a 'Red Plate Night' when family members make positive statements about each other."
01/5/2009:
"Oh my, this is really great! Thanks a million times because I have two jobs and really, realistically do not have time to seat w/ my family together in the dining table. Please send us more tips . This is very helpful. Jeanna L."
10/8/2008:
"I love this article, thank you for giving me such creative ideas for having stimulating and educational conversations with my 11 year old son, who typically states 'I don't know what I learned in school today.'"
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