Are you looking for a way to make an ordinary meal into a special fun dinner night for your family? Here is an idea to get kids excited about dinner. They can be involved as much or as little as they please but I suggest you try to sell them on getting involved because it will be less work for you!
The idea is simple, create a restaurant in your home. Your restaurant can have servers, a chef, a menu, special music, decorations and maybe even a table cloth! My kids love helping to create the menu. The food is set by you but you can work together to write creative descriptions of what you are serving.
I can’t remember when we started doing our family restaurant nights but it is certainly a treat when we do it. Sometimes we have a restaurant for a birthday or a special occasion. Sometimes we decide to have a restaurant night when we have boring left overs or my favourite is when we have a restaurant night because I want to indroduce a new type of food.
This is how it works in our family. One parent usually does all the work to set it up while the other parent is escorted into the dining room. The servers will come out, introduce themselves and take drink orders. Kids always like presenting the menu and watching for reactions about how beautiful the art work is or how creative the restaurant name is. After getting a drink and maybe a very simple appetizer (like a piece of lettuce or a cucumber slice, the servers will come out and tell the customer that the chef has requested that the servers and chef dine together with the customer. Then you can all eat together pretending to have just met.
I think my favourite part of our family restaurant dinner nights that is coming up with a theme and name for the restaurant. The name usually is determined based on the occasion or what we are eating.
Examples of some of our restaurant names are:
- Eat n Laugh Dinner Theatre (the kids performed a joke for the guests)
- Haunted House Salad (Hallowe’en – includes secret salad mwahahaha)
- Taj Mishal Restaurant (Indian food cooked by Michele)
- Leftovers bar (yes, simple leftovers)
- Garden Fresh Tapas (a few items came from our garden)
- Raindrop Bar (open only while raining)
you get the idea.
The kids like to draw a picture on the front of the menu. Other details are fun like the hours of operation, testimonials, chef ratings etc.
We always create different sections in the menu for appetizers (which can be simple like cucumber slices or nuts), mains, dessert and drinks. Have some fun with these. Sometimes we add items onto the menu that sound terrible, knowing that the people will not order them. Or we fill the menu with many items but then if they order something that you don’t have, the server has to tell the customer that we are all out of that!
Depending on how many people there are in your family, you can take turns having different servers. In my family we have 2 kids and 2 parents so usually our restaurants have 2 servers (the kids) and 1 chef and 1 customer.
Our kids always like to dress up, so they usually put on their fanciest outfits. But sometimes if there is a unique theme, they might wear a costume to fit the theme. We had a hippie cafe where the servers wore tie dye and flowers in their hair.
The kids get really excited when we say, “lets have a family restaurant night tonight”. They know the drill, they help plan, decorate, make the menu and sometimes they even get into the kitchen and dream up appetizers.
If you decide to try this, please let me know how it went and share your creative ideas!