Hannah Keeley, host of the TV show Hannah Help Me!, led a chat on TheMotherhood about the importance of “getting back to the table” with your family to spend quality time together during meals.  She was joined by 10 co-hosts and a number of participants who attended Libby’s lunch events across the country to create dinner kits for families in need.


The conversation covered a number of topics, from ways to make family dinners happen to setting mealtime rules – and everything in between.  Read on for excerpts from the Talk, or read the whole conversation to see all of the wonderful ideas!


Thank you to Hannah and all of the co-hosts and participants!  Your conversation has provided plenty of food for thought around family dinners!



Getting Creative


Do any of you ever do theme nights at the table? They make dinnertime sooo much fun! I will base it around what the kids are learning in school sometimes. We did Greek night one time — wore togas, ate Greek food on the floor and listened to Greek music. The kids had a blast (and so did I)! (Hannah Keeley)


Sometimes we have “Morning Nights” and we have pancakes, eggs, bacon, crepes, etc for dinner. The boys LOVE it! (Alaina, Dinker & Giggles)


We have a glass table, so I let my son write the menu on the table with window crayons. We’ll also draw fun placemats as well. (Tracie)


A good spinoff of that would be to cover the table with butcher paper like they do at restaurants and let them color on it! (Candy, Mommypalooza)


Another great way to make dinner more fun is to ask open-ended questions around the table such as “If you were a superhero what would your special power be?” The kids love it and their answers are usually hilarious! (Hannah Keeley)


Have picky eaters? Here’s some tips: cut up the food into small pieces and give them a toothpick to eat it; allow special silverware or a cup for them to use. At least have them try it and tell you what they like/don’t like. We then offer ONE alternative – mom is not a short order cook. (Tracie, Penny Pinchin’ Mom)


A fun thing that we have done is have “switch night” where mommy and daddy use the kids plates, cups, and silverware and kids get to use mommy and daddy’s normal dinnerware. (Alaina, Dinker & Giggles)


Mealtime Rules


We do our best to put our phones away for dinner… Sometimes since we both run our own businesses it’s hard. If we need to use a phone we leave the table to take the call and we quickly let the caller know that we’re eating and that they will get a call back asap. As for the TV it is NEVER on during a meal. We often will put music on but only as a background. (Cara, This is Where I Come Up with Something Witty)


Get everyone involved in helping with clean-up and also emptying the dishwasher the next day, etc. I won’t use paper plates, but for those who do, there are some great biodegradable ones and more eco-friendly than others =) (Brandie)


Some kids bring toys to the table…we have a NO TOYS rule…what do you do at your house? (MyKCMommy)


We have a no toy rule too, however, my daughter used to be attached to this stuffed pig and she brought him to the table, set him a place, with his own chair. He was a part of our family so I just let it slide. (Sara, Momma Findings)


I have an 8-year-old who likes to be the center of attention for all the conversation. We started having a “talking candle” at our table. If the candle is in front of you, it is your turn to share about your day, or answer our conversation jar question. It helps to halt the constant interruptions! (Kristen, Dine&Dish)


I run a child care and have a rule that we *have* to remain seated for 30 minutes, even if their plates are clean. It’s something that I think is a benefit to my family – and theirs. I’m excited to hear more one this topic! (Anti-Supermom)


Overcoming Dinner Obstacles


My biggest obstacle, and it is so silly, is remembering to take things out of the freezer to thaw… like meat or a meal I made ahead of time. Seriously – that is my biggest obstacle with dinner and I run into it all the time! (Kristen, Dine&Dish)


This is so simple it is silly, but anyone else have a hard time keeping their dining table cleared? I have now made it a priority to clean up all projects, crafts, mail, etc. from the table *before* I even start dinner preparations. We’re more likely to sit down then. (Anjanette, Eat From Your Pantry)


Making Family Dinners Happen

I usually have 2-3 freezer meals ready to go. Soups, frozen taco meat, spaghetti sauce, etc. It helps when you have that moment of “WHERE DID MY DAY GO!” (Kelly, Kansas City Mamas)


When I go grocery shopping, I tend to buy whatever is on sale and plan my meals accordingly. (icefairy)


Always have “go to” ingredients so that you can fall back on them. If you have fresh veggies and frozen chicken breasts, then you can throw together a big salad with grilled chicken breast strips or take a can of cream of chicken soup, some rice and chicken and make a casserole. (Shannon, Potamus Prefers)


Crock pot in the morning! LOL! Except I often don’t remember. I love allrecipes.com – you can also search by ingredients so that’s nice! (Brandie)


Plan, plan, plan! Otherwise you’ll have the 5 pm meltdown. (Hannah Keeley)


I do a weekly meal plan – it makes shopping so much easier and less expensive. I try to do one poultry night, beef night, vegetarian night, fish night, leftovers night, and a freebie night ( homemade pizza, breakfast. etc.) We usually eat out one night a week (on Saturday). (ctcwriter)


Getting the Kids Involved


I have my kids plates low enough that they can “pick their plate” and they LOVE that! Also their cups are within reach and they can get their own water out of the fridge door…that makes them feel involved! (MyKCMommy)


I let the kids make their own plates (with non-toxic paint, of course). They can draw whatever they want, write their names on them, whatever. It makes eating more exciting! (Hannah Keeley)


I like to ask my kids to choose meal items. I give them options, corn or beans? Chicken or beef? They get to choose their salad dressing too! I also involve them in helping to set the table! They LOVE to help and it keeps them busy while I’m trying to get dinner on the table. (Cara, This is Where I Come Up with Something Witty)


When I have my children help me set the table, it also makes them more of a part of the meal. It leads to them wanting to sit down at the place they set. Plus – MOM doesn’t have to do it all! (Tracie, Penny Pinchin’ Mom)
Part of my menu planning routine is letting each kiddo who can speak (my two boys) pick what’s on the menu for one night a week. Usually it’s beef stroganoff or something else I don’t care too much for but they love it and eat it so I make it! And they take ownership of that meal that they picked and planned so it makes it fun for them too! (Candy, Mommypalooza)


I always enjoy participating in food drives and getting my children involved. I think when kids realize others go hungry, they may appreciate what’s on their own plate more. (1Chef)




The Hosts


The incredible mamas who co-hosted the Talk were:


Alaina, Dinker & Giggles
Anjanette, Eat From Your Pantry
Candy, Mommypalooza
Cara, This Is Where I Come Up With Something Witty
Crystal, Simply Being Mommy
Jenn, SuperJenn
Kelly, Kansas City Mamas
Kim, ClumberKim
Kristen, Dine and Dish
Rachel, Following in My Shoes
Shannon, Potamus Prefers
Tracie, Penny Pinchin’ Mom


You can sign up for Libby’s Virtual Canned Food Drive here: http://help.feedingamerica.org/site/TR?fr_id=1130&pg=entry



See the original Talk here: http://tmotherhood.wpengine.com/talk/show/id/62073