Time: 30-60 minutes


We have busy lives, and limited time to share meals together with family members. This is problematic because the family meal is an important time for family bonding, learning and enjoying family traditions and values, and a chance to catch up on each other's lives.


By reading a humorous poem about one family's very hectic dinner time dynamics, participants are encouraged to reflect upon dinnertime in their own homes and to think about ways to improve family interactions during this important family time.


General Objectives

  • Participants will describe the value of having meals together as a family.
  • Participants will create a family-specific vision plan for how family meals can be a more enjoyable, shared family experience.

Specific Objectives

Participant will:

  • Discuss 1-2 existing patterns of behavior during family meals.
  • Engage other family members in discussion about ways to improve family meals (e.g., more participation, more time, with better communication).


  1. Hand out copies of "Dinnertime" by Mary Ann Hoberman. [see below]

    Handout 3-3: "Dinnertime" poem

  2. Read the poem as a group -- Ask for volunteers to read portions of the poem.
  3. Have families discuss the poem. Here are some questions to stimulate discussion:
    • How do family members in "Dinnertime" relate to one another (e.g., Do they relate to one another at all?)
    • Are they aware of each other's interests and concerns?
    • Are they communicating with each other? Are they sharing time together?
  4. Go over each person in the poem.
    • What are they concerned about?
    • What ideas do you have to make this family's dinner time more of a shared family experience?
  5. Prompter question for further discussion:
    • What can be done to get everyone's attention?
    • What would a family conversation which draws in all family members be like?
    • What is dinner time like in your family?
    • What would you like dinner time to be like in your family?
  6. Pause a moment and then read the following instruction:

    Construct your own family poem and, if you want, draw an image to convey what family members see as the "ideal" family meal.

  7. Concluding points:

    Be clear about what you want mealtime to be like in your family.

    You have some control over what mealtime is like in your family. It need not be a bunch of individuals sitting together and basically ignoring each other. Rather, it can be an enjoyable experience and opportunity for family members to share time and get to know each other better.


Not everyone is a poet, so give some options to writing a poem such as writing a song or a short story.

Also, keep in mind that creativity takes time. Try not to rush this activity.

For some families, the main challenge may lie with the communications aspect of this activity. This could be a good time to review the communications skills presented in Section 1, Activity 1--RECIPE for Good Communication, especially the "C" skills -- "Compromise and Cooperation."


Contact Us

Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D.
  • Professor, Intergenerational Programs and Aging

Contact Us

Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D.
  • Professor, Intergenerational Programs and Aging