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At the end of the summer, I did something with the kids that I had never done. As a celebration for the end of summer and start of school, I took the kids to the store and let each of them pick out their own flavor of ice cream. That’s right. We headed home with four cartons of ice cream, all different flavors. It was a special treat, not only because it was a rare sweet treat, but also because it was something that, as a large family, the kids do not get to do very often– each choose their own thing instead of sharing.
Typically, I make dinner and, as the saying goes, “You get what you get and don’t pitch a fit.” I’m a busy mom with four kids, and dinner is a not a time for everyone getting what they want. I know that I can’t please all the people all of the time. Yet seeing their delight at each getting to choose what they actually like for a treat set the wheels turning in my mind on how I could recreate this for dinner.
A local restaurant specializes in family style meals where the servers bring out a variety of food dishes, set them in the center of the table, and everyone serves them selves with what they like. It seemed like a neat concept to try to apply at home, but how feasible would that be with our schedule? Cooking one dinner is challenging enough at times, so how could I cook a family style dinner at home while short on time? For us, the key is giving the kids some of the responsibility to help plan and prepare the meal.
Tips for Creating a Family Style Dinner
#1 – Plan ahead. Pulling off a family style dinner takes preparation and doesn’t happen on a whim. Decide on a night and a time to shop for the meal.
#2 – Ask for the kids meal input. This may range from asking the kids what they would like to see at the meal all the way to taking them to the store to help shop for the dinner.
#3 – The kids set the table. This may be typical at your house, but if its not, let the kids set the table. I let the kids set the table while I am preparing the food. They lay out the plates, napkins, and serving ware. This allows them to be a part of the cooking and serving process.
#4 – Make foods easy for kids to serve themselves. This is dependent on the age of the children. One of the purposes of a family style meal is to allow kids to be able to partake in the meal easily. Older children will be able to serve pretty much any food item, while younger kids should steer clear of foods that need sharp knives to cut and serve.
#5 – Giving yourself cooking grace. Use frozen innovative meals to easily enhance a family style dinner.
#6 – Encourage kids to try a bit of everything. Do you have picky eaters? A family style dinner is a great opportunity for kids to try new foods. Be a good example for them by trying a little bit of everything, too!