Make dinner mirror an adult party. Start everyone off with fancy drinks -- soft drinks or juices with fruit-skewer stirrers and a selection of hors d'oeuvres. Keep it simple with cheese cubes, crackers, olives and other mini-bites and finger foods. Then set up your meal as a buffet to keep the party theme going. Kids will love looking at the selections and serving themselves. Finish with your coffee and their dessert back at the table.
Once a month, let the kids choose a theme for your evening meal. This will make for lively discussion before they even make a choice. Write each person's idea on a slip of paper and draw for a monthly winner so every child gets a turn. It's a fun idea that can quickly become a favorite family tradition.
Ideas from the kids will make it so much more fun -- and it can be educational, too. The children can research the country to learn more about traditional dishes, fashion, music and habits. Let everyone contribute ideas for simple decorations and centerpieces, and listen to the kids' input on entrees and side dishes that will fit the theme. The children can even help with prep and setup. Set the table appropriately for the theme, and add to the atmosphere with music to match the mood.
In addition to countries and ethnicities, other theme ideas could center around occupations and lifestyles. For example, throw a cowboy dinner -- modeled after a chuckwagon with beef burgers, baked beans and bandana napkins.Have a family fondue meal, a Hawaiian luau, or a build-your-own-meal theme featuring tacos, burritos, burgers -- foods that the kids can assemble themselves.
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