This post is sponsored by La Famiglia Kitchen
We all know we have to do it every night and there is no getting around it so it may as well be fun. I am, of course, talking about dinner and no, I am not completely delusional.
The whole dinner process has been getting a bad rap for too long so it’s time to turn it around. The answer has been there all along – kids! Chances are you have an entire team of mini sous-chefs, comedians and designers at your disposal, probably even at your feet at this time of the day; so get them working with you. With their help, you can turn meals into a time to savour the special moments and the funny things kids say.
Step one – it’s all in the planning
Stress and joy do not go hand-in-hand so try to set aside a bit of time each week to meal plan. If you’re anything like me you have hundreds (OK, thousands) of recipes on Pinterest boards and in cookbooks just screaming to be real-worlded. On top of that you have the minds of tiny creative geniuses to be picked. Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated; eggs on toast, make your own pizza, garlic bread with salad – these are all great go-to meals. Whatever it is, just do yourself a favour and decide on the menu before Shaun the Sheep comes on.
If you have older kids who can read and write then you’re laughing. Even a three year old can draw up a menu. They may have you eating sausages with a side of oranges every night but at least the process will be fun. Got five people in your family? Let everyone pick one dinner for the week, that way someone will be chuffed with the cuisine every night.
If you want to make Friday nights a bit special, choose themes. For example, make it an Italian food night and watch Pinocchio together with a bowl of spag bol and some garlic bread? Or lay out a platter of warm bread, sardines and cheese and chuck The Hobbit on. What’s most important is that you take advantage of this fleeting time where the kids still enjoy your company and allow what you eat to be a pathway into different cultures and conversations.
Step two – many hands make light work
OK, so now you know what you’re cooking it’s time to chuck on the music and hand out the jobs. There is something for any kid no matter their age to do to help the process along, even if it’s just keeping the baby out of your hair so you can get it done. A two year old can fetch tomato sauce, a three year old can set a table and a five year old can pour drinks. Bigger kids can take turns being in charge, and I’m not talking about fake-being-in-charge, they can actually do it with a nudge or two in the right direction.
Step three - make the conditions right
And then there’s the table. Encourage creativity; send the tribe outside to pick flowers to make it beautiful or YouTube some napkin origami tutorials. Grab the pencils and make some DIY place mats. Decorations and fun are absolute best friends.
When it’s time to sit down and eat just enjoy your people. Ask the kids what made them happy and sad today, what made them laugh. If they did anything kind, funny or helpful? If they learned any jokes or songs? When your three year old jumps up and does the robot to punctuate a story she is telling, even if she is causing a sausage and orange earthquake, just enjoy it.
Step four – preserve the fun for posterity
We are so lucky to live in an age where we can virtually bottle our kids. Smartphones can make videos, stop animations and quotation art from any moment in our lives. How fun would it be to photograph dinner every night for a month and make a family recipe book, complete with funny stories? Or do a quote-a-night series?
It can be so hard to enjoy the crazy stuff while it’s happening, but I know my own memories of tomato sauce explosions, home made rubber-custard and simultaneously burnt and raw cupcakes still make me smile twentyish years on. And really, aren’t these your favourite kinds of memories, too?