How to encourage conversation at dinner
“What did you do today?” It’s a common dinnertime question that’s often met with responses like “I dunno” or “Nothing,” if not light grumbling or silence -- sometimes, even from your spouse. Keep the conversation going at mealtime with these quick tips and tricks.
Simple conversation starters
Often, kids don't answer questions at dinner because we're not being specific enough. Instead of asking broad or yes-or-no questions, ask each person at the table about a particular event or emotion:
- What's the best thing that happened today?
- What's the worst thing that happened today?
- What was your favorite lesson?
- Did you have fun at the assembly?
- What games did you play at recess?
Parents should participate, too. The best way to show them what you want them to do is to do it yourself first. Even if your occupation is too complicated for them to understand at their ages, surely you did something today that they can understand.
You don't want them playing with their food, but that doesn't mean you can't play at the table. Write simple tasks on index cards (one per card). The tasks should only take a few seconds, and the kids should be able to do them without getting up. One person starts by drawing a card from the center of the table and completes the task; play then moves to the next person. Sample tasks include:
- Name as many yellow foods as you can.
- Challenge someone to spell a word or solve a math problem.
- Name the funniest thing you saw or did this week.
- Take a bite of your vegetables.
- Say something nice about the person on your left.
Keep the fun rolling
Remember: It's all about the communication. It's OK to get off-topic sometimes. The most important part is that you're learning about your kids.