Who is kinda “over it” in the dinner department? However, maybe you feel a little guilty about it. Spoiler alert- Me too. 3 meals a day for 5 people accounting for food allergies and dietary restrictions (I mean the quarantine 15 is real, yo) and suddenly its over 100 meals a week! Wozers! I’m grateful and yet left scratching my head as my children are feeling the dinner doldrums.

Fortunately, this is totally reversible! I, alongside Registered Dietician, Katie Gustaveson, compiled a list of dinner themes and ideas that work for families ranging from toddlers up through tween-hood. Together, we have tested each of these ideas and as a result we know you can sail your ship out of the dinner doldrums and into de-light! Did you see what I did there (Dad jokes aren’t just for dads)?

Dinner Themes and Ideas:

Dinner Under the Table:
Yup, you heard this one right. A favorite for the littles, Gustaveson also calls this Upside Down Dinner. Start with dessert and then have dinner. Keep the mood light and fun and as a result, you’re the hero of the day!

Arts and Crafts Dinner: 
Do you know a wee one or a fidgeter? Us, too. Keep interest at the table longer by having a simple craft set up nearby. It’s delightful for littles, but you may find comfort in knowing currently we have a huge coloring poster set up that my tween will color while snacking.

Chat and Chew:
Build muscle memory for staying at the table longer by reading your child a book. I used to tell the kids, “I’ll chat while you chew”. Then the picture books would come out and we would settle in for a few titles during mealtime. Side benefit for those times your kids are eating early and you aren’t eating until later, yet you still get to be all together at the table.

Fancy Dinner:
Katie Gustaveson, R.D., shared a great tip to enhance mealtime moments by bringing out the tapered candles she has for fancy occasions. While the china might stay stashed away, bring out the cloth napkins and any other trinkets that say “I’m so fancy.” During the beginning of teaching manners and etiquette, we used to have Fancy Fridays at our dinner table. Of course, my children asked for British accents and pinkys extended…along side peels of laughter.

Virtual Dinner Party:
That’s right, invite friends and neighbors to nosh a la Virtual Dinner Party. Call up the grandparents and have them gobble and giggle with the grandkids. Whoever you invite, make sure they like lots of “see food” ’cause that will be the special of the day

Picnic and Movie Dinner:
This one can also double as a possible date night for you, or at least a little peace. Spread out a blanket on the family room floor, pick a kid flick and let them have their own dinner and movie.

Charcuterie Dinner:
Trying to hold out for one more day before braving the grocery store? This is easily the most requested style of dinner in out house. Sometimes known as platters or boards; kid friendly charcuteries are my secret weapon to making leftovers look lovely. Basically, group together all your categories of food onto one big plate, tray or board and kids will gravitate to the colors and love that they can pick off of it. I mean, don’t yours want to graze all day, too?


We’ve shared a week’s worth of ideas and we know there are more out there. We hope you try one and tell us how it went!


Leave a Reply