3 ways to spice up family dinners

By Heather Merrill

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14 2014 4:05 p.m. MST

Next, do another Internet search for "dinner conversation starters." Print these open-ended questions and cut them into strips. These will be questions that each family member will read and answer during dinner. One example of a conversation question is: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Finally, you'll need markers or “daubers” for the bingo cards. (We use glass stones you can find at the craft store.)

Once everyone is seated for dinner (with a bingo card above each plate), you will begin the game with the first person reading a conversation question. While the first person is talking, the rest of the family looks at their bingo cards for words that were said.

Rotate around the dinner table so everyone has a turn picking a conversation starter and sharing.

Keep playing until you have a winner or it stops being fun.

For more fun, have prizes for those who get a bingo. Prizes could include getting to pick the next family night movie or family dessert or not having to do a certain chore that night.

Pencil-free Mad Libs

Preparation: Nouns written on 3-by-5-inch cards.

Create crazy tall tales to entertain the whole mess hall.

Write one noun per 3-by-5-inch card on one to two packages of cards. Make sure to involve the whole family with picking nouns, the crazier the better. Some of our favorite nouns are not for the weak of stomach: booger, poop and whatchamacallit.

Have cards face down and ready for when dinner starts. During dinner, one person begins to tell a story and picks up a card with a noun that must be included in their part of the story.

The next person then continues the story and also picks another card and uses the noun on the card they picked in their story.

Special ingredient: This game is easier to do with older children. And you may need to set parameters on what types of things will get a director's cut from you. Just be sure to let your kids have a do-over if their part of the story needs an edit.

So why not add some vitamin L (laughter) and vitamin G (goofiness) to your dinner tonight? Just remember, like with any good meal, to stop when you start to feel full. Or stop while things are still good and fun (and kids are not too full of it.) And if these games don't fill the evening with sweetness, try them again another night. Or just do what I did during my third trimester: add chocolate syrup to everyone's milk.

Heather Merrill is a single mom, writer and eyewitness to preschooler debacles. Email: heathermerrillwriter@gmail.com

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