Flea turned 11 a couple of weeks ago. For the past year I’ve really noticed some changes. No, not those changes.
My pre-teen seems permanently attached to her iPhone these days. If it’s not Snapchat, it’s Instagram. If it’s not Instagram, it’s FaceTime, or a text message, or surfing Buzzfeed looking for quizzes.
We hiked up to a waterfall this summer, in Canada. We clambered up a trail, between beautiful fallen trees in the rainforest. After an hour, we were rewarded with views of falling water, sparkling in the sun. My face damp with spray, I looked over at my daughter. Who was throwing imaginary balls at a Pokemon, oblivious to everything around her.
According to a recent survey conducted by Dolmio, tech is ruining dinner time for families. Half of parents surveyed said dinner time was negatively affected by technology.
The survey of 2,000 parents found that one in three households has tried unsuccessfully to ban tech from the dining table. Close to half (48%) said they felt they had no way to stop tech at the table, even though more than eight out of ten said that tech free dinners were happier.
As a result Dolmio has invented a Pepper Hacker. This is a smart device that shuts off WiFi signals around the table. I think it might come in handy for a lot of my friends!
The folks at Dolmio want to bring families back together for tech-free dinners, and asked me to share some of the Whittle family’s top tips for #TechFreeTables.
Let’s Get Real
In an ideal world, I’m sure we’d all be sitting round the dinner table, Waltons-style, chatting about our days, and swapping interesting stories while we eat a delicious, made-from-scratch meal. Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s not our family.
By dinner-time, especially during the week, I’m shattered. Although I’m an awesome parent 99% of the time, sometimes I don’t have the energy to sit through an endless report on which Pokemon has evolved into what that day. I just want to cook something quick and simple for dinner, and stay awake long enough to eat it!
Kids aren’t great at small talk. Expecting a child to maintain conversation over a 45-minute meal is a BIG ask. It’s hardly surprising they get bored and would rather be texting their friends. Any question about Flea’s day will usually result in her telling me what was for lunch. Or I get a “not much” or “can’t remember” in response to any other question.
Over the years, though, we’ve held firm on our “no tech at the table” policy. To help that work, we’ve developed a series of idiotic games, challenges and activities that we use to keep mealtimes fun. Yes, they’re a teeny bit silly.
Today I thought I’d share some of my favourite dinner games. Check out the video above to see five of our games in action last night, while we enjoyed a quick pasta bolognese for dinner. Or read our longer list of games below.
But that’s not all! Share your own dinner games with me in the comments, and you could win a £50 hamper of Dolmio goodies (see below for details):
Ten Dinner Games for Families
- Would you Rather: this is a really simple spoken challenge that’s pretty self-explanatory. Sometimes I’ll use it to get Flea thinking (“Would you rather be a builder, or a plumber?” and mostly Flea uses it to think up ways I might hypothetically be tortured (“Would you rather spend a thousand years sitting in lemon juice with cuts on your hands and feet, or have to poke yourself in the eye for the rest of your life?”) I know, right? Heart-warming.
- The Alphabet Game: I used to play this game as a kid with my brothers. Choose a topic like “boys’ names” or “capital cities” and you have to take turns naming a reply with each letter of the alphabet. So I might say Adam, Flea says Bob, and so on. Sometimes we vary it by playing “last letter” so if I say Adam, Flea might say Mark, and I say Karl…
- Categories: This is a variation of the above. We might choose a category like “chocolate bars for sale in the UK” and we have to take turns to come up with a chocolate bar. This is fun particularly for passionate arguments about whether a Jaffa Cake counts as a chocolate bar, or whether Hershey’s is a UK brand. It generally degenerates into chaos.
- Draw the Movie: If we’re eating out, one of our favourite dinner games to play is “draw the movie”. True story: I always keep a small exercise book and pens in my handbag for this reason. It is sobering as a graduate with a mortgage and my own business to realise that, no, I really don’t know how to draw a luck dragon. Although I will say the waitress at Schooners Seafood in Vancouver Island totally got that this was NeverEvending Story (even if Flea didn’t). Sometimes we make play the extreme version, by setting a 30-second time limit on the drawing side.
- Trivia Quizzes: Most little people are experts in something bizarre, and so Flea and I often quiz each other, Mastermind style, on our various areas of expertise. I might give her 10 questions on the TV show Modern Family, while she quizzes me on 80s movies. Usually a score of 7 out of 10 is qualify for dessert, while a 9 out of 10 might even score you some ice cream.
- Who am I? Pick a famous person, or fictional character, and the other person has to guess in 20 questions or less who you are. It’s a terrifying insight into how little your kids know about all the things you assume they’re learning at school. “Hans Christian Andersen? Is he related to Jennifer Aniston?”
- Banned Letters: If Flea’s been away for the weekend, then I like to hear what she’s been up to. To make things more challenging, we pick a letter and Flea has to tell me about her weekend for at least one minute. Only she can’t use ANY words starting with the banned latter. If she loses, I get to eat her dessert. If she wins, she gets mine. We stopped playing this with my talking about my day, because Flea always banned “B” which meant I couldn’t use the words ‘blog’ or ‘blogger’. Kids are ruthless like that.
- Squares. Remember squares? It’s a pen and paper game that’s perfect for kids. Make a grid of dots (about 7×7 is a good size) and you take turns connecting 2 dots. Every time you complete a square, write your initial in the box. At the end of the game, the grid is complete, and you can count up all the squares to see who’s won.
Win a £50 Hamper with Dolmio
Dolmio is a perfect option for a quick weeknight dinner. The less time you spend cooking, the more time you have to spend around the table with loved ones.
To be in with a chance of winning a hamper like the one below, just leave a comment. Tell me YOUR top tip for keeping kids entertained and tech-free at the table. Exact hamper contents may vary, but will include a selection of 5 Dolmio products, a blanket, hamper, pasta and parmesan cheese. Complete the Gleam widget, and once you’ve commented, bonus entries are available. Closing date September 19th at midnight GMT. Terms and Conditions apply (see below)
Entry open to UK adults aged 18+. One entry per person, prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is available. One winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries after the closing date. Promoter and data controller Flea Enterprises Ltd, 2 The Old Sawmill, Lytham FY8 5PL.