Meal and study time at our house can definitely be a rowdy, rambunctious event! Our dining room, where food is consumed and most projects are accomplished, is a tight squeeze for the seven (soon to be eight) of us – especially with a vaulted ceiling that extends straight up to the top floor’s roof. Such acoustics cause all noises within its bounds to rapidly magnify. So, you can imagine how our dining room plus 5 young children (who unabashedly compete to be heard) equals – as I said before – a very rowdy, rambunctious event!
As their mom, I knew some kind of solution needed to be found. I discovered quickly that upping the decibel level to call them to attention did NOT improve matters. To avoid yelling, next I tried using one of those cross-farm style whistles, the kind where you put your fingers in your mouth and everyone within a fourth of a mile can clearly hear you. Although it was easier on my lungs, it resonated so loudly everyone’s ears ached afterward. So much for that! We also tried to put together a Native American “talking stick” complete with feathers and design. The idea behind it was that the one holding it would “have the floor,” so to speak. It didn’t work well with 5 kids though – lots of grabbing and “it’s my turn” screeching. The fourth try was a winner, however. The parental GAVEL (or a spoon tapped against a metal pan, for example) became our cue to quiet down a bit. So now these days, no one’s yelling, no one’s going deaf, and no one’s grabbing. It’s much nicer.
With this system, we’ve been able to have many successful family activities in that room. One of our favorite dinnertime activities is filling out a notebook filled with a vast array of questions. Each family member gets an opportunity to answer each question. The questions range from what your favorite food is, to what kind of pirate side-kick you’d have, to what kind of Disneyland ride you’d invent. Certain theme questions can run for pages. In the fairy/sprite, wizard, and personal planet theme sections for example, people choose everything from what their outfits, residences, and festivals look like, to what their magical gifts are. We call the notebook “Our Family Book of Questions.” It has hundreds of questions in it and makes each mealtime a decibel conscientious, rip-roar of fun. Some evenings we just “walk down memory lane” and read a completely filled-in question, giggling at each person’s lively and unique answers.
What a difference it has made in our family to transform that chaotic, noisy disaster into a wonderful, sharing environment!
QUESTION: How have you solved similar situations, and what kind of creative family activities have you used to “fill the void”?
CHALLENGE: Start your own fun family dinner-time tradition!