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With the new wave of Covid-19 restrictions on eating out, dining at home is now the norm. That’s good news, as dining together regularly can build better ties between family members.

Many supportive companies here have even designated the last Friday of each school term as Eat With Your Family Day (EWYFD). Employees get to leave work early so they can eat with their families.

In case you are out of ideas to make family dinners more interesting, here’s how you can make use of these precious family bonding opportunities and turn ordinary meals into special affairs. All you need is some imagination and a little effort!

1. No phone zone

As most of us have realised, screen time can be the biggest thief of family interaction time. Create a device-free or no phone zone at the family dining area during mealtimes. Not only will it remove the biggest source of distraction for youngsters, Mum and Dad will also be relieved to be free of the constant emails and texts from work, even if just for a while.

2. Have a theme

Themed nights are a surefire way to enliven dinners. Organise your meals around a specific topic or theme, like books or movies (try Dr Suess’ Green Eggs & Ham or Disney’s Ratatouille). Or take a trip around the world—through food! Exploring cuisines is a great way to introduce the kids to different cultures and customs.

3. Switch locations

Meals do not always have to happen at the dining table so long as the family eats together. Planning a Japanese themed night? Lay a few floor cushions around the coffee table and have your bentos or sushi there, Japanese-style! Living rooms and balconies are also great places to have an indoor picnic if sandwiches and finger food are on the menu.

4. Make a family member's favourite meal

Let each family member have a say in what to eat for a meal. If grandpa is a curry-lover or grandma adores her Teochew kuehs, turn it into an opportunity to let the kids learn about traditional foods or the spices and herbs used in local cooking! It’s also a great chance for the grandfolks to share family stories or anecdotes attached to their favourite food.

5. Invite a guest to dinner

Having someone over for dinner turns mealtimes into occasions. A well-travelled family friend or an older relative with rich life experiences can be a good source of insights and a fascinating window to a different world or era. Just remember to stick to the current Covid rules on the number of visitors to your household.

6. Start a family meal tradition

Traditions start from little rituals built over time. Start a dinner conversation ritual by getting each family member to share about an interesting thing that they had encountered or read that day. Or find something to celebrate each week—maybe junior finally learnt to ride a bike or dad reached his weight loss goal—give each achievement some well-earned recognition!