Dinner Helpers: How Do Your Kids Help at the Table?

Dinnertime in my house can feel a little frantic some nights.  Because I often need to work in the evenings, dinner needs to be wrapped up and cleaned up quickly.  My husband doesn’t get home from work until 6:00, so some nights we don’t even begin eating until 6:30 or later even though the kids are usually in bed by 7:30.  Rather than a relaxing meal together, dinner often feels more like the beginning of the sprint to bedtime.

Earlier this week the dinner-bath-bedtime rush became even more hectic than normal.  My husband rolled in about 6:00 and had to roll right back out less than an hour later to attend back-to-school night.  I had a Twitter Party to host at 8:00, which meant getting to the computer by 7:30 to prep and set up.  Rather than panic, I enlisted my kids’ help to make the evening go more smoothly.  My seven year old has become skilled at clearing the items from the table that just a year ago she would have spilled in her journey from the table to the sink, and my five year old is great at tossing trash and collecting empty cups for the dishwasher.  Clean-up should have been a no-brainer.

But then there was an unexpected bump in the road – a dishwasher full of clean dishes!

I wanted to just stack the dishes in the sink and walk away, but instead I started assigning new tasks to the kids. In just moments the dishwasher was emptied, and now my kids know where things like the cutting board and colander belong.  I know I was pushing it, but I tried to get them to help load the dishwasher, too, and it worked. Somehow the spirit of cooperation that helped at dinner clean-up followed us upstairs that night and suddenly my kids were laying out their own pajamas, hanging up their own towels, brushing their teeth without being asked.  We ended the night with a story from my childhood about my brother and his best friend’s crazy adventures, and then both kids went to sleep without fussing or fighting.

Could it be that a calm dinner translated into a calm evening?

So what do your kids do to help at the table?

This post was created in connection with my appointment as an Ambassador in the Ragú® Mom’s the Word on Dinner Program. Visit www.facebook.com/ragusauce to join the conversation.

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  • My 3 and 5 year olds love to help fix dinner, and they help set and clear the table. we’ve just started experimenting with them loading the dishwasher, but it becomes quite a struggle as they lose interest pretty quickly. I think they are more capable than I’ve been giving them credit for, so I’m just trying to build the habits.

  • I believe our society has mandated that a perfect family spends dinner together but you have done more than just host a nightly family dinner. You have created an amazing network among you and your kids where they are helping you help them spend time as a family. Kudos to you and your amazing family.