Waiting for the Dinner Bell to do the bell thing.

by | Jan 23, 2009 | Parenting | 10 comments

Not long ago, Henry and Eli became obsessed with “Dinner Bell” by They Might Be Giants. After listening to the song approximately three billion times, they secretly conferred and then came to me wondering, “What is a dinner bell?” This led, happily, to my mom bringing us my grandmother’s old dinner bell. Now, most nights (and some mornings), we ring the dinner bell when it’s meal time.

Turns out there are lots of dinner bells available for not too much money, and I’m honestly highly recommending them for everyone. (You could get a ranchy chuckwagon triangle, or just get a regular one like we have.) The first best part is that the children don’t stand three inches behind you asking when dinner is; at least, not after you’ve reminded them that dinner is when they hear the dinner bell. They go off and play and await the ringing.

But the other day I realized the other great dinner bell use: calling the kids home. Since I have a voice that seems to carry about as well as a mouse’s, it’s very handy to have something louder to send out the “it’s time to come home” alarm. Henry was playing in the backyard of the kids across the street and one house over, and when it was almost dinnertime I opened the front door and rang the dinner bell. And then, to my great satisfaction, I heard Henry say, “Oh! That means it’s time for dinner!” and he was home in less than a minute. SO much better than me squeaking, “Henry! Henry! Dinner!” and having him ignore me/really truly not hear me.

And I hope you’re all appreciating the truly stupendous all-day-long bed head that Henry has developed. That little bent-up winglet is a force to be reckoned with.


  1. sutswana

    My best friend’s mom used to do the same thing with the ringing of the bell, three blocks over. Wonderful.

    I would use this idea in my own home if not for the fact that we generally have to beg Miranda and Iris to get to the dinner table. We’re starting to think that we should withhold snacks starting at noon.

  2. Clog

    Nana used to have that special whistle that carried far and wide. You would often be playing somewhere out of her auditory zone and someone would say to you “You better get home, your mother is whistling for you”. Oh the joys of small town living, although I am sure that will happen in your little neighborhood too.

  3. Anne

    I remember we had something called a “Chow Time Chime” that my sister Mary made in metal class in middle school. I don’t remember that it was ever used for its intended purpose, but it did hang by the dinner table, and we all loved the fact that it was called “Chow Time Chime.”

  4. Julie

    Didn’t Nana also have a cow bell?

    I would totally co-opt the name “Chow Time Chime” if it weren’t for the TMBG song. I am also impressed that Mary took metal class in middle school.

    And maybe Miranda and Iris would be more into dinner if they had a bell calling them to it.

  5. Clog

    I don’t know why Nana had that bell that I gave you. She always called us with a whistle. It has been used by bed ridden friends to call for help but now is being used the best way of all. I love the thought of you ringing the bell and the boys (and little Zuzu at some point) come running.

  6. Anne

    We all took metal class in middle school; it was required. I really liked it.

  7. Lisa van Oosterum

    We have an old school gong style dinner bell that Marcus got from his grandmother and it is SO handy at meal times (except when the kids fight over WHO gets to ring it) more just for fun than anything. Susanna- it makes dinner way more of an exciting event (not that my tapeworm kids need any help in that department!)

  8. sutswana

    Okay, I’ll give it a try! And why not, considering we seem to own every noise-making instrument known to man…

  9. Julie

    So of course Lisa and I ran into each other at the grocery store this morning. She had an overflowing cart, I was on my way to buy 3 bushels of apples and 36 eggs (standard fare for a 3-day supply of food for us). So there are definite economic advantages to having non-eating kiddos.

  10. sutswana

    Iris freaks out if we call dinner “dinner.” She wants us to refer to it as “snack.” (Or, worse, “Snackie.”)


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