At 6 and 7 my boys are becoming little men. They have adventures (both good and bad, but nearly always hilarious) that I don't know about until I ask them. But sometimes they don't want to tell me!
A couple of months ago, we began to make a concerted effort as a family to sit down and eat lunch and dinner together on the weekends. I've also tried to sit with the boys for dinner (my husband works late and I eat later when he gets home) during the week.
What to do?
Play some games, of course!
These games can be played any time, but I have found them fun to play when we are on the subway, waiting in line for something, and, of course meal times! They can be played in any language, but we play them in Spanish. (As a bonus, they have also worked well for me in the classroom!)
Game #1: Dos Buenos y Un MaloLast year, my youngest was transitioning from a sweet PreK school to Kindergarten at a big (800 students!) public school with a yellow school bus ride to the other side of the city. He adored his teacher and had a few close friends, but often came home exhausted and upset about events in his day. Everything was negative! To mitigate this, I told him that he could tell me as many bad things as he wanted, as long as he told me 2 good things that happened to go along with it!
It took a while, but he started to become more positive about his time at school. Instead of "Tuve un mal dia." he would tell me "Tuve un dia normal." By spring, he actually had several "dias buenos" even though he had broken his arm and could not participate in many activities that he loved.
Anyway, this game has now turned into a good way for me to find out the good and the bad of what is going on for my boys. We simply go around the table and saw 2 good things and 1 bad thing that happened to us that day. Often, the bad things are fairly innocuous: "I forgot to wear my thick socks, so my feet were really cold today." or "They ran out of my favorite meal choice just as it was my turn." But sometimes they give me things to pay attention to: "I didn't feel like playing soccer at recess so I sat alone." or "Daniel pushed me at lunch so I fell into my applesauce and messed up my shirt."
The game is excellent to introduce school-related vocabulary that they may not hear at home and it's been an excellent way to bond (and snoop!) on my kids!
Game #2: ¿Qué Palabre Se Te Occurre?This was a game that we played at bedtime with the boys as part of their bedtime routine for years. Somehow we stopped playing, but have recently brought it back at mealtimes. It's a lot of fun, and sometimes gets a little crazy!
Here's a very straightforward example:
The first person says a word that could also sirve as a category. For example: colors. We go around the table as many times as we can, everyone trying to mention a new color. If you really want to step it up, you can repeat all of the previous answers BEFORE you give yours.
You can also play by saying a word and asking what words do you think of when you hear this word. This is where the game can get a bit out of control when one of the kids is a jokester like my son (but it's a bit more interesting that way too!)
For example, recently, I gave the word, "avion" (airplane). We went around the table:
Volar (to fly)
Comer (to eat) ?????
The game pretty much fell apart after that....
To be fair, here is my son a few years ago explaining what he is going to do on the airplane. ("Comer" does come up first in the conversation!)
Game #3: El Juego de Los Animales (20 Preguntas)This is an oldie but goodie. We play this variant of 20 Questions during the 40 minute subway ride to Spanish school on Saturday mornings. I don't think the kids even know that you can play this game in English!
The first player thinks of an animal. The other players take turns asking questions that must be answered with a "yes" or "no".
¿Tiene cuatro patas?
¿Vive en el desierto?
Of course, this game has become a bit more tricky now that "Pokemon" are considered animals in our household, but, hey! a mama can stand to learn some pop culture as well!