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Family Dinner Traditions

Family Dinner Traditions

A few months back, I blogged about needing to shake up family dinner a bit. I’m happy to report that things are going pretty well. We have experimented much more with dinner offerings (mostly thanks to Pinterest and blogs like Skinny Taste and DALS) with varying degrees of success, but in the process have found at least half a dozen recipes that have become part of our regular rotation. Totally worth it in my book. We also use Peapod most weeks which has been wonderful. Plus, I’m absolutely the queen of the impulse buy and most of these impulse buys tend to be unhealthy, so I’ve noticed a huge difference in the amount of junk sitting around the house when we use Peapod.

We also made a huge shift in the family dinner experience recently. Liam has started eating dinner at the table on a “big boy” chair rather than in his high chair. He was getting a little grumpy in his high chair so we decided to give it shot, particularly because he is getting pretty good at using a spoon and fork thanks to awesome dining skills he learned at his child care center (seriously, I can take no credit –  left to my own devices he’d likely be drinking out nothing but a sippy while I “airplaned” food in his mouth). All of this has got me thinking about the non-food parts of family dinner that will define our family dinner experience. During the week, dinner is typically the only time we’re all sitting in the same room giving each other our full attention (mainly because at this point, Liam doesn’t really sit otherwise). I want to make it count.

toddler boy at the dinner table

This change has caused us to start making and thinking about some of the traditions we want to bring to family dinners:

1. Setting the table. We really set the table for dinner every night. Place mats, cloth napkins, sometimes even napkin rings when I’m feeling ambitious. Liam gets the same, although I’m not quite brave enough to give him a real plate and glass yet. To me, setting the table nicely is kind of like making your bed – everything feels better if you just take the 30 seconds to do it each day. And, Liam loves it. Something about getting his own place setting and seat seems to have caused a breakthrough in terms of how long he’ll sit at the table and how willing he is to eat the same dinner Brad and I are having so much so that I’m totally willing to deal with the additional mess as a consequence.

2. High/Low. What was the high point and low point in your day? Both Brad and I grew up with some variation of this concept around our family tables, so it’s something we have started doing with Liam, too. He still has no idea what we’re talking about, but it’s been fun to start it up again and try to get Liam involved in the dinner conversation beyond him just asking for something.

3. “It’s Your Special Day” Plate. Growing up, my family had this crazy-looking plate (actually, my mom still has it and occasionally still breaks it out) and my parents would set it out whenever one of us had a big day for any number of reasons from a good grade on test to having a big game, etc. I’ve written about it before – it became a big thing in my family and was frequently mocked by friends and outsiders. Still, my siblings and I loved getting that plate far beyond the age where it was socially acceptable to be excited about it and to me, that’s something worth preserving. We don’t have one yet in our house but I’m thinking a purchase of one like this might not be too far away.

What dinner traditions does your family have?


Online Community: Eating Dinner as a Family


  1. Profile photo of Amy

    Amy September 26, 2013 at 9:54 am

    The family dinner is very important in our family too. Once you get in the habit it does get easier to make it a priority even on those days when it doesn’t seem possible. But you also have to be flexible. So now that my oldest is in 1st grade and has soccer on Tuesday nights (husband is her coach), my toddler and I eat together and we save plates for my husband and daughter when they get home. Many times my son and I will still sit with them while they eat.

    And I love the idea of a “Special Day” plate. I’m going to steal that one.

  2. Heather September 26, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I love the idea of a special plate!
    Yesterday I got home from the office a little bit late and my daughter (7) was eating by herself. My husband was in kitchen, too, but he was doing other things. When I walked in, she said “come sit with me and tell me about your day.” I just about cried. All those dinners when I would ask her to tell me the best part of her day I thought she was just participating in the conversation because I wouldn’t let it go. I think my “tradition” has stuck.
    Oh, and we had the best conversation about the projects I’m working on. 🙂 Then she told me about her day.

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