Even before I had kids I knew that I wanted us to sit down, as a family, for dinner. I grew up having family dinners almost every night, that time was always special to me and I wanted to give my kids the same opportunity. I knew it would be tough as the kids got older, schedules and everyday events would get in the way. What I didn't fully prepare for was the work involved, with little kids, in getting these dinners to actually happen. I don't mean the dinner prep, most nights I like making dinner, cooking relaxes me so it usually doesn't feel like work. What I am talking about is actually getting three little bodies to sit in their chairs and put food in their mouths. It sounds so easy, dinner is cooked, put on the table, everybody sits down and enjoys. Yet this rarely happen in our house and dinner time is becoming one of the most stressful times in our day, so I am on a mission to make dinner time fun.
It all starts when I ask for the table to be set. Either no one is willing to help or Liam and Aggie both want to help resulting in a small scale cage match as they fight about which utensils to use and the proper placement of each item. First we decided to alternate nights who gets to set the table. If the person responsible decides not to do the job they loose a PP (our family money) and the other person can then help out and earn a PP. The person setting the table gets to choose which utensils, plates and napkins we use, but must put the items in the proper place, and the rest of the family cannot change or complain about the items chosen. To help get everything the proper spots we each made our own place mat.
I made templates of a fork, knife, spoon, plate and napkin, the kids traced them in the color of their choice then we glued each item in the proper place. The kids decorated the plates and then drew a picture on the back. When they were done I covered the place mats in clear contact paper, some day I will have laminating machine. We have been using them for a couple of weeks, the kids love using them. They have helped Liam remember which side everything goes on and he likes being able to set the table without any help - he is my independent perfectionist. They definitely help when Aggie is setting the table, she tends to be much more creative in her approach to, well pretty much everything and having the visual cue reminds her there is a proper way to set the table. The table setter also gets to choose our centerpiece. As long as it fits on the center place mat it can be used, pumpkins have been the favorite so far, but we have also had a LEGO centerpiece and a few other random toys. It has been a good start, but it is relatively new and still exciting. We will keep focusing on this for another week or so then I will begin making more of a focused effort to work on another aspect and hopefully it won't be long before our dinner time blues are a thing of the past.