Get your kids talking: 5 family dinner table conversation starters

Family & Relationships

by Shannon Storey, DO

Aug 15, 2023

As summer comes to an end and the new school year begins, now is a great time to get your kids involved in dinner conversations to share about their day and spark their creativity. Every meal is an opportunity to connect and learn about your child’s daily experiences and feelings.

Need help getting the conversation going? Here are five ways to enhance your family time together and get your kids talking!

1. The question jar

If you are looking for a fun way to spark dinner table conversation, the question jar is a simple way to begin. Before the meal, ask each member of the family to write down a question on a strip of paper. Then fold up the paper and place it into a jar. During dinner, ask each person to choose a piece of paper from the jar and pose the question to the family. This activity will engage your kids, allow them to ask questions and inspire their imagination.

Question ideas:

  • “What superhero power do you wish you had?”
  • “What’s the funniest thing somebody did or said today?”
  • "What’s your favorite movie and why?”

2. Rose, thorn and bud

This activity gives your child the opportunity to reflect on what happened at school and provides you with insight into their daily lives. Family members say what the rose, thorn and bud of their day was. A rose is any highlight, success or positive experience. A thorn is any challenge that arose during the day. A bud is something they are excited about or looking forward to. This conversation starter encourages mindfulness and allows children to share any aspect of their day where they may need support or advice.

3. Chair questionnaire

With some planning, a chair questionnaire can transform any dinner table conversation. One family member writes questions on a piece of paper and tapes them to the bottom of each of the chairs. One by one, each family member reaches down, finds the question and answers it. To add to the fun, have everyone pick a different dinner chair to sit on during the meal.

4. What made you say?

Kids don't always volunteer information. Asking them, “How was your day?” or “Did you have a good day today?” can sometimes lead to short answers like, “Good” or “I don’t know.” If you are looking for a new way to pose the question to your kids, try the “What made you say” game. Start by asking your kids, “What made you say _____ today?” You can fill in the missing word from there. It could be anything from “cool” to “wow” or “oops.” You can also ask, “What made you laugh today?” This is a simple and fun way to learn about your child’s day.

5. Story tellers

If you’re looking to promote creativity and collaboration, story tellers is an imaginative way to get the whole family to participate in the conversation. In story tellers, the family creates a story and develops the plot! For example, the first person might start the game by saying, “Once upon a time, there was a turtle named Frank who lived in a lake.” The next member of the family will add one sentence to the story and the next does the same. Once you’ve made your way around the table, you will have created a story that is unique to your family, and you will see your child’s creativity spark along the way.

Encouraging interesting conversations during family dinners is a special tradition that can positively impact your child's development and sense of wellbeing. From sharing personal stories to talking about creative ideas, these conversation starters help everyone in the family better connect. In a world where screens often get in the way, sitting down to eat and talk together is important.

By using these conversation starters, you can bring your family closer together and provide a space for discussing daily challenges and wins. It's not just about the questions; it's about listening and understanding too. This makes everyone feel important and heard. The next time you have dinner with your loved ones, try starting a conversation that encourages everyone to talk and join in the discussion.

About the Author

Dr. Storey is a pediatric resident at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children's in Temple.

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