So let's work on preventing generations of idiots! I know it won't be easy at first. The art of conversation is like a muscle; if you don't use it you will loose it. When we made the switch to an electronics free dinner hour, it was full of awkward pauses and silences. That just proved to me that we needed to do this. We are family! If you can't chat with family... So, how do you get past this? Well, play to your family's interests. If you aren't as interested in games (or puzzles) and food as we are, these particular ideas might not be a perfect fit for you but you can easily tailor it to your family. Here is what we did:
1) Play the Ingredient Guessing Game: I cook, so I judge. The rest of the family take turns guessing what was put in to the dish. Every correct answer gets a point; the person with the most points when all ingredients have been guessed wins. It is an easy, simple game that requires no special equipment and has the added benefit of having everyone slow down their eating and start thinking about what they are putting in their mouths. It also helps them develop their palates. (something that is sadly lacking in our children these days as their diet seems to be limited to chicken nuggets, pizza and hamburgers)
2) Read Encyclopedia Brown Books: Any book can work and we eventually started including much longer ones, but why this particular series is great is they are short and the mystery's solution is not in the story. Each night a different person would take a turn reading a story. After the story was read, we would discuss the case and each say what we thought the solution was. It works for a wide range of ages. Even the adults enjoyed solving the cases. Eventually, when we had finished the series, we started reading some of our most loved books and some we hadn't read at all. I loved sharing The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with the kids. We looked forward to each "episode" we read each night. Some nights my husband wouldn't be home for dinner and we didn't want him to miss any of the story so we didn't read the book, and guess what? We chatted more easily with each other.
However, we like variety, so we are always looking for new and different ways to enjoy family time during dinner. I hosted a Hasbro Game Night through HouseParty and we got Scrabble Catch Phrase. We loved it and changed the way it was played it so it could work around dinner.
If you can't beat the electronics, join them!
Out one night for dinner, we were lamenting that we weren't getting our Catch Phrase fix, and a quick search of iTunes found several games that are pretty similar to the game we love. Below is a screen shot of my "family games" folder. We tell riddles, play Catch Phrase type games and our new favorite, Mad Libs! It had been fun reliving a childhood game of mine. All these apps are free, but some have additional content you can purchase. I really like the 'Unspeakable' one. Instead of the general restrictions on what you can say, it gives a list of 5 words you can not say.
So while we are technically using our electronics, we aren't using them to ignore each other, we are using them to play games with each other. Another up side to these game, I think they help improve flexibility of mind and vocabulary.
So, get out there and spend some time with the important people in your lives that doesn't have your nose buried in your phone!