I grew up eating a lot of TV dinners, and I envied those families I watched on my favourite shows. They would sit at a table eating delicious meals together, talking to each other about their lives. So when I had my kids I was determined we would eat dinner together as a family. Experts say it’s important too because it can often be the only chance the entire family has to be together all day.
When my three children were tiny, eating together was excruciating – first because they would eat dinner at 5pm and that made me feel like an old age pensioner – but also because nobody had developed the social skills to make dinner interesting, or even tolerable. Food and tantrums were thrown, voices were raised, and every evening was tense.
Now, my kids finally have the skills to sit at the table and hold a conversation. But when I’d ask them about their days, all I got were grunts, eye rolls, and a request to pass the tomato sauce (MUST it go on absolutely everything?).
That was until I came up with a conversation starter that gets everyone thinking, and talking. I started asking my kids, “What was your play of the day?”
In other words, what is the best thing that happened to you today? But we call it “play of the day” because rhyming makes everything fun.
Then the person who has answered the question gets to ask someone else, and so it goes around the table until everyone has shared something about their day that made them happy.
It’s always a race to see who will ask the question first, when we sit down.
Often there are stories attached to the play of the day, but sometimes it’s just a short answer. Either way is fine. But before we know it we’re halfway through dinner and we’ve spent all that time focusing on wonderful things that have happened – all the while practising our story-telling and listening skills.
It has transformed our dinner time into a positive, feel-good event that everyone leaves feeling cheerful. I plan to keep asking my children for their play of the day at every dinner we share – and hopefully, one day, my children’s children too.
Do you eat dinner together as a family? What do you talk about?
Contributed by Carolyn