As adults, we often don’t think about the art of conversation as something we learn, but it’s an essential skill to teach your children. Whether your little one is joining, starting, or maintaining a conversation, they must learn how to engage meaningfully with people around them.
The dinner table is an ideal, distraction-free space to cultivate conversation and hone this skill. While it might feel overwhelming to listen to your child’s never-ending run-on sentences, this stream of consciousness is the foundation for working their way up to adult conversations. Remember: We were all beginners once! Use the dinner table as an opportunity to set up conversation habits that will help your child succeed.
One creative way to make this a habit is to form a bank of open-ended questions that serve as conversation starters at dinnertime. When asking your child a question, remember to listen closely and avoid turning it into an opportunity to lecture or teach. Instead, be curious about their answers and probe for more if they only respond with one or two words. We’ve gathered some great, thoughtful questions below to help you get started!
What’s the story behind your name? What does your name mean?
Did you help anyone today?
How did your parents meet?
What are you grateful for today?
What would your ideal day look like?
What would your superpower be? What would your superhero name be?
If you could live in a book for a day, which book would you choose?
Where were mommy/daddy on X day? (For older kids, this could be a somber event such as September 11, 2001, or something more light-hearted like the day they got their first car or paycheck.)
What was mommy/daddy like when he/she was your age?
If you could ask a wild animal any question, what would you ask? What do you think the answer would be?
If you could make up a new holiday, what would it be?
How did you grow your mind today?
Tell me about someone at school who is different than you. What makes them unique?
If you had to leave home because of an emergency, what three things would you take with you?
What are the most important things you want to do this season?
What’s something that challenged you this week?
What are some things you could do to make a new friend feel welcome?
If you were a crayon, which color would you be and why?
Would you rather go back in time or travel to the future?
What is something that our family is really good at?
What do you think grandma/grandpa/any other distant relative is doing right now?
Now that you have a handy bank of questions to ask your child, it’s time to get chatting! As with any new skill, remember to be patient with your child while he or she is learning. We hope these questions lead to some quality family bonding time around the dinner table!