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3 Special ideas for family dinners

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate statio...

Add a little fun to dinner time

Making family mealtime something special doesn't have to take a lot of time or effort. Adding a few extra elements will delight your kids and get some new conversations going. Simple changes can make dinnertime an event no matter what's on the menu.

Kids taco bar

1A change of scenery

  • If you always eat in the kitchen, set the dining room table; candles and flowers make even frozen pizza seem more special. The adults get wine, and the little ones will be thrilled with sparkling grape juice served in stemmed glasses. Take turns toasting each other for the accomplishment of the week.
  • If the weather is warm enough, move to the patio to enjoy your meal outside... or spread out a blanket and eat on the lawn or in the park. Plastic tableware and paper plates add to the picnic atmosphere and prevent breakage.
  • Move your picnic inside some evening. Just lay out a tablecloth on the den floor, add some comfy cushions, and relax. The change in location will be a welcome surprise.

2party time

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.

3Theme night

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.

Make family mealtimes an occasion every night by lighting candles, having the kids make a centerpiece for the table, and making the most of the time you spend together. Give everyone an opportunity to talk about their days and share what's happening in their lives.

More tips for family dinners

Fun dinner ideas for families
Theme nights for family dinner
Fun themes for family dinnertime

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