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Spice Up Dinner with Games

‚Äč‚ÄčThis information is included in our Guide to Parenting At The Table. Click here to see the rest of the guide.

Study after study has shown that eating dinner together as a family can provide numerous benefits for children, including helping them avoid risky behaviors as they grow older. Though some of these benefits likely result from having kids stay at home rather than going out and getting in trouble with friends, dinnertime has its own inherent benefits as well. This is because it's a time when families can sit down and talk, promoting closeness, trust and comfort. But dinnertime needs to become a regular routine so the benefits to your kids can continue throughout their adolescence. And that means helping them understand early on why eating together as a family is so important.

So how do you make dinnertime something your kids will look forward to? We suggest playing the following games to make mealtime a little more fun.

Forbidden Letter

Have each family member take turns describing his or her day, but with one catch: before a speaker starts, the person to his or her left chooses a letter of the alphabet that is "forbidden." So when the speaker is sharing, he or she cannot use words that begin with this letter. This not only makes everyone think carefully about what they are saying, but also makes the telling and listening to the stories a fun (and occasionally hilarious) vocabulary exercise. This game can be especially educational if your kids tend to overuse certain words such as "like" or "awesome."

True or False

Go around the table and have everyone take turns telling three things about themselves - two that are true and one that is false. When a person finished, the others at the table have to guess which statement was false. This promotes creativity and lets families learn more about each other.

Would You Rather

This classic game can begin innocently enough, but can get pretty gross pretty quickly, especially if you have boys. An initial question might be something like, "Would you rather be a dolphin or a zebra?" But the direction of the game can deteriorate quickly, to questions like, "Would you rather smell like sweaty armpits or stinky feet?" Still, if your stomach can take it, the game can promote creative thinking as well as increase the chances that one or more family members will shoot milk through their nostrils.

The Alphabet Game

For this activity, choose a category - cars, countries, sports teams or just about anything. Then go around the table, with the first person naming as many things in that category as he or she can that begin with the letter A. The next person does the same with the letter B and so on. Award a point for each response. Family members can earn double points for difficult letters such as X and Z.

What's Missing?

Have one person at the table close his or her eyes. Then remove something from the table. When the person opens his or her eyes, he or she has to identify what's missing. A fun variant of this game is to have everyone but one person close their eyes, then have that person remove four items from the table. The first person to guess all four missing items wins.

As you can see, there are many options for spicing up mealtimes and avoiding the same old "How was your day today, honey?" conversation. When you make meals fun, they're more likely to become a family routine everyone looks forward to. And that's one habit we're sure you wouldn't mind your kids getting into.