Play Games at the Dinner Table to Make Your Meal Sweeter

Play with your foodI know we have all heard the old adage don’t play with your food, but in our house, we definitely do. Well, I mean, it’s not like we encourage the kids to build steak pyramids or anything like that. Instead, we play games while we eat dinner—almost every night. For the last 18 months, each one of our family dinners has involved a game, and playing with our food—or at least playing while we eat—has become a favorite part of our daily routine.

Having a game going takes the pressure off the family dinner. Everyone is more relaxed. No one throws a fit, and none of us cares as much about manners. As a result, the kids are better behaved; they eat more and complain less, and all of us leave the table happy and refreshed, not to mention satisfied.

Here are a few of our favorite dinner time games:

Rose, bud thorn: This one is easy to play and takes exactly zero prep. Simply go around the room as ask everyone to share their rose (best thing that happened that day), their bud (something they are looking forward to), and their thorn (something not-so-great that happened that day). I especially love to hear what the kids are looking forward to.

POP: This is like the non-sportsball version of P-I-G or H-O-R-S-E, in that you get a letter each time you miss, and when you have spelled POP, you are out. To play POP you go around in a circle and take turns responding very quickly to the prompt at hand. Usually you play this game with favorites. The person who starts the round would say, for example, “Favorite food” and then everyone in the circle has to blurt out their favorite food. If someone before you says your favorite, you have to think fast and blurt out something else. You get a letter if you take too long to respond, can’t think of a response, or repeat another person’s response. You take turns going around the circle and starting the round. My kids love trying to stump each other with obscure categories (favorite 19th century vice president, for example).

Lights: I love this game suggested by Elisabeth Frost. To play, you take turns going around in a circle and sharing a highlight, lowlight, and a medium light from your day. I adore the focus on medium lights because let’s face it, these are the moments that make up most of our days.

20 Questions: For a twist on this old favorite, ask Alexa to play.

Alexa games: Speaking of Alexa, we also like to play Jeopardy, Harry Potter Trivia, and the Question of the Day on our Echo while we eat.

Harry Potter Trivia: We have gone through 2 complete HP Trivial Pursuit branded decks AND an HP movie trivia box since 2020! We play in teams of 3 and typically go through 2 cards/team per dinner. We trade off reading questions, and it’s pretty cut-throat

Trivial Pursuit: Same as above with different cards

Hit List: This game is so fun!

Cards Against Humanity Family Edition: A favorite, for sure

What Do You Meme Family Edition: Hilarious!

PicWits: Good for your littlest kiddos

Never Have I Ever Family Edition: Another funny game that the kids love.

Incoherent Family: My favorite and really funny to play with new readers

Mad Libs: I am proud to report that 4/5 of my kids know all of their parts of speech because if this game. We have filled books and books of Mad Libs with questionable vocabulary (LOTS OF POTTY TALK) over the past couple of years, and everyone loves to play.

Table topics: These aren’t a game per se, but they are a great way to spark interesting dinner table conversations.

Your turn! Any games I have missed or family favorites of yours that you think might work well at the dinner table? We are always looking for new games!

Sarah Jedd has a Ph.D. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches and studies the rhetoric of Planned Parenthood. Sarah has 5 (F I V E) children: teens Harry and Jack, elementary schoolers Cooper and Dorothy, and sweet baby Minnie, born in August 2020. Sarah blogs about being a mom of many at harrytimes.com and overshares on IG as @sarahjedd. Sarah, her husband, and their kids live in Verona with the world's laziest dog.

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