So many people regard cooking as dinner as a chore, something that has to be done everyday, a drudgery that's just more work to be done at the end of a busy day. Why not turn creating the evening meal into a creative time that your whole family will enjoy and you'll begin to look forward to?
With children and busy schedules, it seems that the time for preparing dinner can be limited, yet it's more important than ever to get the whole family together. Some of the best conversations happen around the family table and breaking bread with your husband and children is still one of the best ways that I know of to reconnect for awhile. That being said, you've got to be creative about it. Kids can be so very picky about food so why not turn creating healthy delicious dinners for your family into a game. On Saturday or Sunday try sitting down with your family for an hour to discuss the meals and choose the foods for the week ahead. Really listen to their input because If you involve your children in meal planning and cooking they will be more apt to eat what you prepare. Take them shopping for the food for the meals and let them each try one new thing. Challenge them to pick a fruit or vegetable that looks interesting, buy it and have fun looking up ways to prepare it. That's how my son began a lifelong love affair with kiwi fruit!
Something that is also fun to do is choose a country to "visit" for the week ahead. Perhaps you've always wanted to take your children to England but you just haven't had the funds. Proclaim the week ahead a trip to Great Britain and then Google British food and customs. Plan every meal from the recipes that you find and let your children help you in the kitchen. In my own experience , children love to make things with funny names and English ,Scottish and Irish foods have some of the best. I'm never met a child who balked at learning to make a food named Bubble and Squeak, Bangers and Mash or Toad in the Hole and when they make it, they'll always eat it!
Give them their own aprons and teach them how to chop, stir and if they're old enough, to saute'. Let them smell, taste and then learn to use some spices. Remember that it's ok for them to make a bit of a mess, that's what dish towels are for and that's how they will learn to enjoy themselves in the kitchen. Once you teach a child to cook, you'll never have to worry about them not being able to feed themselves and that will bring you peace of mind!
Let them have the pleasure of presenting the foods they've cooked at the table. Rent several British classic movies and books from the library and after dinner watch and read them together. You can make a book or movie last a week and it will give your children something to really look forward to and will turn an evening chore into a very special family time. When you're done with England you can travel to India or China. Maybe you'll decide that the next stop is Paris or Sweden. When you're having adventures like this at home the sky is the limit and I promise that if you try this you will have as much fun as your kids.
While you are beginning to prepare dinner, have your kids set the table. Show them a picture of what a well table looks like and let them be creative when they set yours. Let them make it pretty with pictures, flowers or whatever else they want to decorate it with. One of the easiest ways to do this is to get those old fashioned paper placemats and let the kids draw on them with crayons and markers. Have them decorate the table with the weeks theme and you'll be amazed at how they begin to enjoy being together with you in the kitchen and at the table.
Be sure to get your children some inexpensive water goblets with thick stems and do let them eat off of the good dishes. They probably won't break them because they think that it's terribly grown up. If you teach them appropriate table manners they'll never feel embarrassed when they go to a friends home for supper.
When the meal is cooked and the table is set, have everyone sit down. If there are candles let everyone take a turn lighting them and even the littlest ones can do this with your help. Then hold hands and if you are so inclined , say grace. My family isn't religious so what we often do instead is tell each other what we are thankful for. Each person takes a turn and shares something that they are grateful for that day. It's a wonderful and creative way to reconnect with each other after a long and hectic day that your children will remember forever!