Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Eat. Laugh. Connect

Starting this week I'm adding a new feature to my posts. Each week I will give you a practical tip (many from my readers) about how to have more family dinners. Look for this symbol in my posts.

Several times a week I tickle my 18 month old granddaughter,  Clavel, (her bloggy name meaning Carnation) who lives 4000 miles away across an ocean. This does require some technology and a little help from my daughter. When we're Skyping I hold up my hands and start wiggling my fingers and say in my best Grandma-to-toddler voice, "I'm going to tickle you!" As I move closer to the camera I say it again and again while she starts smiling and squirming. When my fingers loom large on her screen and I make that internationally recognized sound, "Tchika! Tchika! Tchika!" and at the same moment her mommy tickles her from behind while she giggles adorably.

Then she will ask me to sing the "Zoom zoom zoom we're going to the moon" song by doing the opening hand motions and saying, "Oom, Oom", so we sing all three verses of this song with mom helping again after the countdown so she can blast off! Often she points to the picture of her cousin who is just five months older than her and saying, "Ahm, Ahm". Sometimes our little Abeja (Spanish for Bee--she is a busy bee!--and that 23 month old cousins' bloggy name) is at my house when we talk, so Clavel thinks Abeja should be there every time. Then we all do the Zoom, Zoom song together. 

This week we all Skyped together.  The girls looked at each other and smiled and pointed and said "Baby". They showed each other things like toys and photos and called to each other "Ahm! Ahm!" "Vell! Vell!" and when one started to play, the other enjoyed just watching. Then they said good-by by blowing kisses to each other. Oh my grandmother heart!

As grandma to both these adorable girls who look nothing alike and have only been together a few times in their short lives, I love it that I can connect with them through fun and games whether they are in town or on the other side of the world. I know these little girls feel emotionally attached to me, in part because we play together.

Games help connect emotionally, especially ones that involve tickling, hugs, and laughter. Tickling games might not be the best to play at the table, but there are games that you can play that will bring about laughter and maybe some hugs, too. Here are some dinner time game ideas to help you connect with your children.
  1.  Pony Express--you need to have at least five people at your table for this and the more the better. After everyone has served their plates and the serving dishes are sitting on the table waiting for those who want seconds, someone says, "Please pass the turnips and brussel sprouts." (No I don't think they ever asked for seconds of that in my house either!) Someone else calls out, "Pony Express!" then the dish is passed in the direction away from the one who wants it and maybe goes back and forth a couple of times before it gets to the asker. Watch out, this will become a regular at your house! Accept it with laughter.
  2. The Alphabet Game--Start with what you all did today going through the alphabet. Maybe you went to the store and bought Apples. Then someone else can say, "At recess we played with a Ball." Anyone can interject at any time. See if you can be creative enough to come up with something for each letter of the alphabet. Another night you can list things to be thankful for, people you know, places you have been, things you would like to do, and so on. (Psst, don't tell the kids, but they are learning while they have fun!)
  3. Imitate--Kids are great imitators. They see people's foibles and characteristics and can sometimes see through them. Maybe have everyone imitate the person on their right or on their left. Tell them to be nice. Take it to heart when the child imitating you scolding the other "kids" over and over--is that all they hear from you? Sometimes you might suggest extended family members or friends of the family to be imitated. Just remember to ask your kids to keep it upbeat.
  4. Nicknames--come up with nicknames for the whole family, maybe make them all start with the first letter of your last name. Try to think of qualities that person has to give them an encouraging name. I'm not at liberty to tell you the names my husband's sister came up with for the family when they were little. Suffice it to say, my husband was "Freckles." And his sister still uses some of the other names she came up with!
  5. Name that Tune--each one take a turn humming part of a tune and getting the others to figure out what it is. We were playing a game the other day with our family where I had to get them to guess something that was also a song title, so I started humming the familiar tune and no one could figure it out! So much for my musical ability. But we had a good laugh.
  6. Twenty Questions--You know how to play this. Think of something, anything. Then everyone can take turns asking questions that can be answered with, "Yes" or "No" until they guess what you are thinking. You might count their questions, or you might just let them keep asking until they figure it out.
  7. Joke Night--Tell everyone ahead of time to bring a joke or two they heard recently. Take turns telling the jokes at dinner. Laugh and groan together!
  8. Fortunately, Unfortunately--This was one we played when I was growing up. Someone starts telling a made-up story and then says, "Unfortunately..." At this point they insert a problem into the story. The next person takes up the story there and says, "Fortunately..." and has a solution to the problem. The next person says, "Unfortunately..." and brings in another problem. And so it goes until you are laughing to hard to continue or you wind up the story. 
  9. Mad Libs--Go around the table and take turns supplying the kind of words needed in these kinds of stories (adjectives, nouns, verbs, a number, etc.) to end up with a very funny and unlikely story.
  10. Conversation Starters--go through a list of conversation starters like these and choose the funniest ones for your "game dinner" evening.

Joy, mother of four grown kids and grandmother of seven says: 

No tricks for dinner time together. It was the rule of the house and we just complied to it every day possible, which for us was an average of 6 out of 7 days. Part of the "rules of the house."... which meant Mom and Dad had to be true to the rule and the kids just knew it "had to be." Enjoyed this time immensely with our four children! 

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For More Ideas and Inspiration:
Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes

Linking with these great blogs. 


  1. I'll be trying these! We play card games at the table and love it!

  2. I hope you have lots of fun and laughter!

  3. What fun ideas! I especially like #2 ;) I chose this post as my feature for this week's #FridayFrivolity!

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! I wish I had thought of #2 when my kids were young. I'll have to do it with the grands!

  4. Soooo importante is dinnertime. Most lessons on manners, paying attention, family moments are during la cena. Gracias for these wonderful ideas, will definitely be sharing. BB2U

  5. Great tips! I would love to try some of these with my niece and nephew :)



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