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Making Memories at Mealtime

Making Memories at Mealtime

Mealtime is one of the few touch points that you have with your family each day. Fun fact! Scientific research around food and memory actually suggests that mealtime memories can actually be the strongest and longest-lasting memories! If you think about it, most family or friend gatherings are centered around food. Skipping through most of the scientific mumbo-jumbo, your brain’s hippocampus which is critical for memory, ALSO has strong connections to the part of the brain that recalls emotion, smell, and.. (drum roll…) taste!

Since, mealtime is already so memorable, have you ever thought about how you could make this time even more special for your family?

Some of my fondest childhood memories were made around the dinner table. Growing up, my parents were always so intentional about the way mealtimes were spent. I did not realize the lasting significance until many years later, but I will forever be grateful for their mealtime disciplines. And yes, I said “disciplines.” At mealtimes we weren’t allowed to get up from the table without being excused. And once phones entered the picture, they were strictly put away during mealtime. These rules were established to keep mealtime sacred and “set apart,” and a to make room for connection.

My siblings and I were very active in extracurricular activities, so dinner specifically was a time where we would talk about our day and have the undivided attention of our parents. Not that they didn’t listen to us, but life is just busy! We all know this.

Here are a few practical steps for making memories at meal time, inspired by my own mealtime memories!

10 Ideas for Making Mealtime Memorable

1. Give Each Person a Mealtime Responsibility

Our family all had different roles and responsibilities at meal times. One of us would set the table, grab drinks for everyone, someone would be asked to pray, and then another one of my siblings would clean off the table and help with dishes. I think this created a sense of responsibility and oneness within our family. (I may not have enjoyed it then, but I definitely am thankful looking back)

3. Silence All Electronic Devices

4. Joy, Junk, Jesus

My family would often go around the table to each person, and we would talk about our highs (joys), lows (junk) and Jesus moments of the day. Parents were included in this ritual. My parents consistently encouraged us to be the light in the darkness of our schools, and would ask us how we were accomplishing this.

5. Allow Kids to Choose Where or What to Eat

We are also a very “foody” family, so often making memories revolved around going to eat somewhere yummy. Try a new restaurant, or hit up your family’s favorite local joint! 

6. Go Out to a Nice Restaurant or Special Occassion Meal

Every year for my birthday, we would drive hours to eat at my favorite restaurant in Atlanta. It was a day every year where I got to dress up, invite a friend or two and sit around the table with my family and eat my favorite foods. I also remember the day I turned 13. My dad took me out to a fancy dinner, I got all dressed up, and he surprised me with a promise ring. I will never forget the time my parents surprised my brothers and I, taking us all the way to Jacksonville, Florida (about a 3 hour drive away) to eat at a surprise restaurant during the Christmas season.

7. Make a List of Table Topics

You can find all kinds of table topics online! Make a list of your favorites, write them on pieces of paper, and take turns drawing them from a bowl at the center of the table. Here are 140 Family Conversation Starters from WinShape Marriage, and some fun Table Topics for Young Kids that WinShape Camps created!

8. Themed Meals

Like theme days at school or at camp, make mealtime into a theme night! (Costumes highly encouraged.) Use your creativity to center your meal AND mealtime attire to fit this fun theme. Your kids will never forget it. One idea that comes to my mind is a “fancy night” where you serve “fancy foods” and dress in a silly tie, string of costume pearls, or a top hat (if you happen to have one handy.) Or get comfy in your pajamas and eat breakfast for dinner!

9. Spend Time in Thanksgiving

Go around taking turns saying what you are thankful for! This could be a fun daily, weekly, or monthly ritual that you start with your family at mealtime!

10. Take Turns Praying for the Meal

We might be a little food crazy, but I don’t think the food is the most important part. It believe my parents did this for a reason. They wanted to spend intentional time with us by breaking bread together (as Jesus did with his disciples) and making us feel special. 

I think about this concept often and my husband and I have even begun implementing this practice, and plan to continue once we have kids one day!

Written by: JennaGrace Prudent