Dinnertime often has the familiar ring of “Please eat some broccoli. Just three more bites of chicken? OK, two tomatoes, one more fish stick and three spoonfuls of rice.” When Ben was a baby and still imprisoned in that highchair, we would put unsuspecting grandparents on speakerphone as the spoonfuls disappeared. But now that there are two boys and they’re a bit older (six and three), the process is a bit more challenging. (Note: I am not an advocate of TV during dinner – once a month or so, I’ll admit to doing movie night, i.e. simultaneous dinner and a movie.)
Here are a few dinnertime distractions that work in our house:
1) BINGO: This can come in many forms. The game Zingo is a good one and old-fashioned Bingo is always fun, but we’re fans of Mexican Bingo which was a favorite birthday present when Ben turned four. But I’ll admit that it sat unopened for a few months due to my pathetic lack of Espanol.
2) THE GUESSING GAME: Essentially, this is Twenty Questions but with no time or category limit. Recent guesses include “Diego,” “Daddy,” “a stop sign,” and one of the trickier ones, “a month.” Winner gets to choose the next one. And we don’t always stick to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers – hints are often necessary.
3) THE SUPERHERO (OR BAD GUY) GAME: Clearly, it’s geared towards my boys but it can be adjusted for girls (as in the Princess Game, I suppose…). We go around the table and say a new superhero until we’re stumped. And then we move on to bad guys.
4) THE CHARACTER GAME: A bit more highbrow than the Superhero game. Someone thinks of a book character (secondary characters are acceptable) and we have to guess the book. It’s not as easy as one might think.
5) NAME THAT TUNE: An old favorite. It needs to be modified for different ages. Ben and I share a repertoire while Eli’s is far more limited. And Daddy is tone deaf so he’s more of an object of ridicule than a competitor.
6) THE STORY GAME: My personal favorite but everyone needs to be in the mood. Going around the table, each person makes up a line of a story – the sillier, the better! I usually begin with the tried and true, ‘Once upon a time…’ It’s even more fun with a Flip video camera (or similar apparatus). Eli’s most common opener is “And then…”
7) A BOOK: We often settle on this first – especially on a school night when it’s just me and the boys. I read a book or two while they chew away…