It’s not unusual for family suppers to feel like a chore; but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some easy tips to make dinner time more of an occasion – a chance to gather together, and fuel the soul.

Over the past few years of lockdowns, you may have found new time to savour family meals – with breathing space to gather together, finding fresh joy in the time-honoured rite. Or your family may have found the constant demands of meal times more tiring than before, with everyone confined to home. 

Either way, post-lockdown and the arrival of spring signal a chance to reset the way we do family mealtimes. Here at Object Story, we're all too aware that these everyday moments can slip by unnoticed and without recognition.

But, it's also these seemingly insignificant rituals that build our family values and shape our memories. The chipped water jug that was bought on a family vacation, the gravy boat passed down from Grandma which comes out each Sunday, the ceremonial lighting of the candle and the way each child folds their napkin. 

It's these small things that can have the most significant impact on our daily lives; that slow us down and help us to recognise and value how meaningful mealtimes can be. They become less of a chore, a way to feed our bodies – and more of a means of feeding our souls.

Here are seven things you could try this evening which may help to make supper more of an occasion for you and your family.

supper times with children

Get everyone involved

Mealtimes are for everyone. Where possible, try to plan ahead so that you can all eat together. It makes life easier than cooking just one meal and means that you spread the load. If you have a family, give the children a task. From a young age they can help to lay the table, bring water to the table, fold napkins, and count the cutlery. Do the washing up together; one person washes, the other dries – conversations can come about more easily when focused on a task.

Bring out your best

When you have cherished tableware, pottery, linen tablecloths and napkins, it can be hard to bring these precious items to the table daily for fear of breakage and stains (particularly when children are involved!). But having these items in the back of a cupboard won't bring joy, either. You will treasure these items more if they are used, loved and serve their purpose. Yes, they may get a chip here and there, but often there will be a story attached to each chip. A story that will be retold at the dinner table and may turn into family legend.

Bring your food to the table

Instead of plating up on the kitchen counter, bring platters and bowls of food to the table for each person to help themselves. It makes the table feel full and bustling and quickly turns your meal into a sharing feast. Each family member can top up on their favourite foods, and it's empowering for children to be able to serve themselves and have a say in how things appear on their plate.

Create a table display

There’s something so joyful about having fresh flowers in the middle of the table, and they don’t have to be elaborate. A jam jar of garden dandelions will do the job nicely. In colder months, you can switch this for a seasonal display, like a gathering of pine cones, autumn leaves or winter berries. This is a great pre-dinner ritual for children to get involved in, too: as you’re doing the finishing touches to dinner, they can have a quick romp around the garden in search of hand-picked delights.

Give everyone a place name

Place names might seem like something from another century – or even a fusty tradition best forgotten – but it’s also a lovely way of bringing a sense of ceremony to your meal time. Again, children will enjoy the chance to make their own cards, which you can use time and again; or customise for special occasions (for example, during Easter, you can add bunny ears to each place name). Think of it as a craft activity, and also a fun frisson of formality for little ones unused to the ritual. You could even play with moving place names around every dinner, depending on who wants or needs some TLC. You could create honorary place names for pets, too (though perhaps not with Daisy, Milo or whoever it is actually *at* the table).

Light a candle

Lighting a candle is one of the oldest and most universal rituals to mark the start and end of a meal. It's a gentle reminder that now is the time to put phones away, to stay seated at the table and to be present. Children can take it in turns to strike the match, teaching about safety while trusting them to take care. Fire is mesmerising, even on a tiny candle; it slows the pace and makes everyone pause for a moment before digging into a satisfying meal.

Slow down

Slow down, savour what you have created, create conversation and use this special time away from outside distractions to find out how each other are. Talk about your day, your food, how you're feeling – be present and enjoy the conversational flow.

Do you have any rituals which you use to savour family mealtimes? Have you tried any of these tips? We'd love to know - please comment below, or tag any pictures on Instagram with #myobjectstory and @object_story. Or, find inspiration on our Pinterest board.

    May 01, 2022 — Alice Paling