The Dinner Table: Extending Dinner Time with Walking Desserts

A Sweet Idea for Summer (or any time): The Walking Dessert

With the pressures on family time mounting, my wife and I are always looking for ways to stretch out our time together around family dinner. During the summer that means a walking dessert – usually ice cream cones or popsicles, but anything that fits into a cup will work. The walking dessert was started by my wife because I couldn’t get home in time for dinner and as means of stretching the meal until I arrived, she started to take our restless kids on a walk.

Walking dessert accomplishes many things: It gives us some exercise; it redirects the urge my kids have to get up from the table; it provides new things to look at and talk about; and after sitting all day in an office, then in my car for the hour-long commute, it offers an alternative to sitting again for a long time at the dinner table. Walking dessert is also a physical way of talking together, side by side, which for me (and perhaps for you?) is actually more comfortable than sitting across from someone.

If you like the sound of the walking dessert, here are a few things I suggest…

  • Leave your phone at home – the fewer distractions the better.
  • Having a destination helps kids. Maybe there’s a lawn concert nearby?
  • Feel free to call another family to invite them on the walk as well.
  • Strollers, scooters, bikes are all fair game.
  • Talking is great – but remember, silence and just being together holding hands is pretty wonderful too.

Also, here are a few games to play while walking:

Where are they going? — We live on a pretty busy street and also under an international flight path, so there are a lot of people going places. Every one in those planes or cars is going somewhere and behind every person, there’s a story. The game is to make it up. The story should include where they are going, why, and who they will see when they get there.

Cartography — My kids love maps… and so do I. Making maps of the neighborhood is a great way to help kids understand their surroundings. You can either use a map of the neighborhood or make one up. You can map certain things – one thing we map is all the apple trees in the neighborhood so we can check back in the fall and pick them.

I-Spy —This is an old standby. One person starts by saying, “I spy with my little eye, something…”, and adds a description of an object he’s looking at (for instance, “I spy with my little eye, something blue and fuzzy!”). Everyone tries to guess what the person is looking at, and then the next person goes. If you do it while walking, there is so much more to spy!

Birding/Treeing, etc. — I bought an old bird book at the used bookstore for a few bucks. We look to see if we can identify any birds we see. You can do the same with trees and wild flowers.

It is also nice to stop and talk to neighbors, or pick up trash or fallen logs. See what other ideas you or your children can create. And enjoy your time together.


John SarroufJohn Sarrouf

John is a father of two – Elijah (8) & Esme (5) – and the director of The Family Dinner Project, a grassroots movement of food, fun and conversation about things that matter based in Watertown, MA.  John is a professional mediator and dialogue facilitator who spends much of his time leading conversations with parents and families about the opportunities and challenges of family dinners.

[Photo credit: (ccl) rik]

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