12 Fun Ways to Get Your Kids to Clean Their Plates

Photo Credit: photoXpress

I wish someone would have warned me before I had kids that there exists an hour of the day that is more torturous than the others. It would have really helped.  And maybe it’s just the toughest hour for me, but I’m doubtful that’s the case. And which hour would I be talking about? The dinner hour. Come 5:00pm, I’m tired. Kids are tired, house is a mess, homework, reading, piano and chaos is happening all around me. We’re all starving and practically nibbling on the walls. My biggest problem on days like that is I don’t have a clue what we’re eating for dinner. I forgot to be organized that day. Okay, most days, I forget to be organized. But I find that when I do prepare a meal, someone without fail, rejects it. I admit, I’m no Rachael Ray, but I’m also not serving up a trough full of slop.

Dinner is a maddening subject for me. I do know one thing, and that is the benefits of family dinner outweigh my frustrations. I enjoyed reading this article in the New York Times about the benefits and challenges of sitting down to a family dinner. Being busy is nothing new for any family, and to make family dinner successful requires a little planning. But again, it’s worth it.

One day, after experiencing another stressful dinner hour, I thought, I’m doing this all wrong. Dinner should be fun. It should be a time where our kids open up and tell us about their day, the good and the bad. It should be a time where we feel connected to each other. And I think it should be something we all look forward to. In our house, it’s my job to create that. I have found that when I put some effort and scheduling into our dinner hour, it runs relatively smooth. And the times that I make it fun, it runs great!

Here are 12 ideas that can help make dinner the highlight of the day for you and your family. Enjoy!

p.s. You may want to grab the camera for some of these!

  • Barbarian Dinner 1 of 12
    Barbarian Dinner
    Don't like dishes? Like to hear your kids laugh all through dinner? How about forget all the plates and utensils and place dinner right on a cheap plastic tablecloth. When dinner is over, fold up the cloth and throw it away! Dishes ... done.
  • Dress Up 2 of 12
    Dress Up
    Don't forget to dress up for dinner! This one is easy, just put a bunch of crazy accessories from your halloween or dress-up box in a bag and have everyone pick out a surprise to wear during dinner! Be prepared for lots of giggles!
  • Candlelight 3 of 12
    You don't need to wait for a special occasion to bring out the candles. Turn out the lights and enjoy a candlelight dinner with your kids.
  • Breakfast for Dinner 4 of 12
    Breakfast for Dinner
    Kids LOVE eating breakfast for dinner, don't they? Who doesn't? Spruce up your pancakes with smiley faces and food coloring and I doubt you will hear many complaints with this one.
  • Dinner in Reverse 5 of 12
    Dinner in Reverse
    Surprise them with dessert first and eat your dinner in reverse order.
  • Taste of Asia 6 of 12
    Taste of Asia
    Teach your little ones how to use chopsticks and plan your dinner around an asian cuisine they will eat. Noodles and orange chicken are a favorite at our house. And let's be honest: if all else fails, those chopsticks are perfect for stabbing chicken. Photo Credit: photoXpress
  • La Comida Mexicana 7 of 12
    La Comida Mexicana
    Themed dinners are always fun and can be educational too. Have yourselves a yummy Mexican dinner and laugh through it while wearing sombreros (found at most party stores) and playing the maracas for entertainment.
  • Hawaiian Luau 8 of 12
    Hawaiian Luau
    Wish you could take your family to Hawaii in February? How about the next best thing ... bring Hawaii to you! Pick up a pineapple, put on grass skirts, serve some yummy chicken and rice and host a family Luau in your own kitchen. Don't forget to push play on the island music to set the mood! Aloha! Photo Credit: MorgueFile
  • The More, the Merrier 9 of 12
    The More, the Merrier
    Dinner is always more fun with friends and family. Invite some guests to dinner or have your kids choose who's coming. They can help plan the menu also.
  • Dinner Games 10 of 12
    Dinner Games
    This is another easy one for last-minute planning. On slips of paper, write funny instructions for everyone at the table. But shhhh, don't tell each other what they say! Have everyone do something funny when another takes a bite or picks up their glass. It's sure to be entertaining. Maybe you should hide the video camera somewhere and capture the madness for memory sake.
  • Forget the Table 11 of 12
    Forget the Table
    Who needs a table? Skip it and cop a squat on the floor for a change. Have a picnic in the middle of your floor and make it easy by serving finger foods.
  • Fondue It 12 of 12
    Fondue It
    If your kids are anything like mine, they like foods they can dip. Fondue is one big dip-it dinner and super fun for everyone. There are great recipes and instructions to make it safe and delicious for kids.
    Click here for recipes and instructions

For more ideas on how to plan fun, family dinners, I recommend the book, Great Kids are Homemade.

Disclaimer: We only have “Crazy Dinner Night” (that’s what we call it) every once in a while, so that it can keep its luster. It’s not for everyday use!

What is the dinner hour like at your house? Would your family be up to any of these ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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