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3 ways to engage your kids at the dinner table

How to have a family meal time without electronic devices as the entertainer.

What do you do while you wait for your meal? What do you do while you are eating? Do you engage in fun family time or do you give in to the use of electronic devices to fill in the waiting time or to keep your child from running away from the table?

Tip #1 - Get rid of the electronic device(s)

You heard me. You don't need it and you will never need it. Reflect back to the day you first introduced an electronic device to your child at the dinner table. Now reflect back to the days before that. Your child might have been doing just fine without it. So, he or she will do just fine without it from now on.

Tip #2 - Ask catch-up questions

Be in a happy and excited mood. Make eye contact with your kid. Ask questions about him or her. What is her favourite color? What is her favourite ice-cream flavor? Who is his favourite teacher or friend? What happened in school today? How was the lunch box today?

Your kid is growing up every day. If blue was his favourite color, it might change in 6 months. If you ask, you would know. It might be difficult to get the conversation started, especially if your kid has gotten addicted to the use of an electronic device. However, if you show genuine care and interest, your kid will respond to you and talk to you.

Tip #3 - Play a game

Prepare some 1-2 minute games to play with your kid. Here are some ideas: 1. Arm wrestle

2. Thumb-o-war

3. Chopsticks

4. Try not to laugh

5. Try not to blink

There are a lot of finger or face games you can play with your kids. Search for them online. Learn how to play and then play it together. You can play these anywhere without props. It's fun and funny.

Tip #4 - Let them order the food (6+)

Kids start to rid at 5 years old. Let them read the menu. Let them choose between 2 options that you have approved. Let them order the food.

Tip #5 - Let them call for the waiter/bill (6+)

We often overlook the everyday, common things that we have to do. For a kid, it means the world to them when they can take charge. Let them call the waiter for more water. Have them ask for the bill. Tell them to cross check the bill before you pay. Teach them the payment process and the next time, they can do it for you.

Having meals at home

Meals at home will have a different flow as there will not be any ordering of food, asking for the waiter or getting the bill paid. Meal time will be shorter, and so, get right to it with the catch-up questions.

As to engaging your kids to be part of the family meal time, there are chores where you can include them and let them feel that they are needed. Remember to show appreciation when they have done it well. Remember to also show them how to do it before they do it, so that they can do it the right way. Here are some ideas of what they can do to help before, during and after a meal:

  1. Set the table

  2. Bring out the food

  3. Serve the water before and during meals

  4. Bring the dishes to the sink

  5. Wash the dishes

  6. Wipe the table

  7. Keep the dishes

  8. Keep leftovers into the refrigerator

Our family has consistently kept the devices away. We enjoy our meal times together because we learn more about each other, and we have great bonding time. We also see how each kid grow more in confidence and independence when they help takeover the 'adult' stuff during the process. Be consistent. Do not give up. Keep a positive attitude. Most importantly, be a role model. Do not use any electronic device yourself. Be committed and you will get the same commitment from your kids. Enjoy!

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