One of the beautiful things about the holidays (weird uncles notwithstanding), is getting together with friends and family you haven’t seen all year. Dinner becomes an event! But I’ve been thinking, do we need a Hallmark-sponsored date to make dinners special? What IF we could have more family dinners all year long? What if, instead of ho-hum dinners, we made an effort every month or every three months to get together — minus the bickering and forced obligation of the holidays?
Know what would make it enticing for me (and probably your brood)? If they were actually fun!
If you want to test it out on your tribe, or just make your usual Sunday dinners more fun, here are five ideas to try:
1. Do Table Topics
Toastmasters, the international organization that helps people develop their speaking skills, have a segment at every meeting called “Table Topics.” It’s usually the highlight of meetings. The point of these up to 2-minute “Talks” is to practice thinking on your feet.
Now there are Table Topics card games you can buy as well as a similar brand called Convers(ate). Of course, you can create your own questions too if you have the time and inclination.
You can also make changes to the rules to suit your family’s idea of fun: You can change the order you want to ask questions, whether people can “pass” with or without a penalty, or add your own rules. The goal though is to have interesting topical questions and to make the game fun.
Here are a couple of sample questions:
- If you could pick your own name what would it be and why?
- What was the most hilarious tweet or post you saw this week?
- What was the last thing you did that made you think you were a horrible human being (but you wouldn’t take it back)?
Why do this? It’s great fun and builds communication skills.
2. Give Family Awards
Ever thought of looking at your family like a business? Hold up… I don’t necessarily mean a making-money business (although that’s a thing and maybe worth considering!). What I’m talking about though is creating a defined set of values and a mission statement for your family.
If you’re organized like a “business,” you might get a kick out of giving awards for the “Most Helpful,” “Most Loving,” or “Fill-in-the-blank of the Month.”
Of course, you can give awards without being in a “family business,” but you can see why it would help.
Why do this? You’d be creating a more connected, on purpose family unit.
3. Have A Gratitude Segment
Another game your family might enjoy is the “Best and Worst”game where each person shares the best and worst part of their day or week.
Why do this? Encouraging gratitude is a way to teach values to little ones and help your family as a whole, learn to look for the good in life.
4. Create Dinner Themes
If you’re not so creative, ask someone who loves putting together events and organizing things to help. But with online help and ideas from Pinterest, this could be a way for you to practice your creative skills. With themes like these, it’s easier:
- A holiday on the calendar that month.
- Special events like the Super Bowl or Groundhog Day.
- Celebrate your kids; them going back to school, birthdays, etc.
- A 1970s, 80s, or 90s theme.
- Traditions of your culture or home country. (For me, it’s a chance for others to bring around Jamaican food for our potluck).
Why do this? Themes can elevate the evening, give it a purpose, and make decorating for it easier.
5. Go all-out on one thing
End the evening with something out of the ordinary that you know will be a hit with the whole family:
- a movie
- a favorite dessert
- a talent show.
Why do this? Ending with something “sweet” is a way to cap off the evening. It might be the thing that bring people back and make it a never-miss!
You might think I’m being cheesy, but cheesy is what connects us, makes life fun, and make spending time with those we love memorable.
I hope you try some of these ideas or use them as inspiration to create traditions of your own. I know that with more frequent (healthy) gatherings, your family will grow closer, feel more emotionally connected, and safer.
If you’re a parent, doing things like these is even more impactful and you’ll be showing your kids how to be conscious parents.
I’m going to get a bit deep here and share something that has touched me since learning about it:
People who’ve had near-death experiences tell us that it’s these moments that flashed before their eyes just before the lights went out.
Moments like these matter, but without planning, they won’t happen.
Can’t see your family going for this idea?
Maybe you have a toxic family or no family. Consider monthly dinners with friends or meeting for dinner at the same restaurant at a frequency you can handle instead.
Why do this?
We need to make more of an effort to connect. They’re opportunities to create family traditions and memories. Getting together in this way produces feel-good hormones like oxytocin, and help us feel more connected in a world that’s feeling less-and-less like it.
Christine is a lifestyle coach living in Los Angeles. Using systems, routines, and some psychological trickery, she can help almost anyone hack their mind and life for greater productivity. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if she's available for one-on-one work.