“Hey, kiddo! How was your day?”
I hear that this is how dinnertime conversation goes in many families. Or perhaps your table is like ours and it sounds more like this:
“Hey, kiddo! How was…”
“Great! So for breakfast, Papa made oatmeal. And then I did my chores. I don’t like emptying the dishwasher. And then I had 10 minutes left before starting school, so I……”
Whether you’re trying to draw your children out, or to get them to keep some things in, here are some tried and true methods from our table for sharing the events of our days. In our family these work well to bring focus to conversation that tends to ramble and roam. I’m betting they work equally as well to spark some sharing from reluctant conversationalists as well.
- Show and Tell We like to use this one if we’ve been apart for a day or two, or if we’ve just had a big family event (a holiday, or a vacation). Recently the Sweetie Pie and I shared a weekend on the Mendocino coast and the kiddos stayed with their grandparents. The next week we had a show and tell night at the table. Everybody brought something that was special that they wanted to share with the rest of the family. I shared a huge conch shell that I had found on the beach in Mendocino. The kids each had their own special trinkets and toys to tell about. After everyone was finished, I let the kids each pick out a small shell or rock from the collection that the Sweetie Pie and I had picked up on the beach. This one works well with young children. Even the Peanut was able to pick out a favorite toy, tell us what it was, and answer simple questions about it.
- A Tchotchke Catcher This is one I haven’t tried out yet, but I’m tucking it away for dreary winter months when everyone is sick of soup and stew and curry, sick of snow and ice, and starting to get sick of each other. I have this idea to put a basket (or a bowl, or a box) on the dining table to catch all of the interesting things we encounter throughout the day. School papers, Lego creations, craft projects, nature finds…you get the idea. These create a centerpiece for the meal, an entire basketful of conversation starters.
- Sad, Mad, Glad This is one I read about…somewhere. I’m embarrassed that I can’t give proper credit to the person from whom I stole it. My kiddos play Sad, Mad, Glad when they come home from their one-day-a-week homeschool enrichment program. They take turns telling events from their day that made them sad, mad, and glad. I love it because they come up with things to share that otherwise don’t register as “important” (like the time the Bean told me someone had pushed him out of line at the water fountain). I also like that it causes them to reflect on the various emotions that they feel in the course of a day, and that it doesn’t paint any of them as bad (even though that does rhyme with sad, mad, and glad).
If the conversation really gets going (and I hope it does) you’ll need something to serve after dinner, to keep the stories rolling. I recommend this lightly spiced, sweet cambric tea as just the thing to please the grown-ups and the children.
What are your traditions for sharing life and stories? I’d love to know how you encourage sharing at your family table.
This tea is a great family treat. It is lightly spiced and fairly sweet. Feel free to increase the spices or reduce the honey to bring the sweet and spicy into balance for your palate.
Course: Main Course
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 tsp whole allspice
- 1 tsp whole cardamom pods
- 1⁄2 tsp whole anise seed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1⁄2 tsp whole cloves
- 1 2″ piece of fresh ginger sliced
- 3⁄4 cup canned coconut milk
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ground cinnamon for serving
- Bring the water and the spices to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to it’s lowest setting, cover, simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let the tea steep for at least 10 minutes (longer, if you prefer a stronger flavor, though you may need to reheat the tea before serving)
- In a separate saucepan, warm the coconut milk, honey, and vanilla. Use an immersion blender to add some froth to the warm milk.
- To serve, pour the tea into mugs. Add the warm milk and sprinkle with cinnamon.