It can be increasingly hard to get kids chatting with you, especially all the challenges our kids face in today’s world (think anything from bullying to electronics to lockdown drills).
As parents, we tend to go for the standby and ask ‘how was your day?’ – yet it often results in a simple answer of ‘good’, instead of creating dialogue. Instead of resorting to that question, try using these conversation starters for kids that will help elicit more discussion.
When is it a good time to talk with kids?
If you want to chat with your children, obviously anytime can potentially be a good time – from bath time with your toddlers to the car ride home from school with your 5th grader.
But one of the best times to start conversations with your young ones? Family dinners.
Family dinners have long been promoted for their nutrition benefits. Children are exposed to new foods, see their parents eating healthy options, and can model those behaviors. But the benefits of family dinner extend far beyond that.
Here are a few benefits of family dinner questions and conversation:
Did you know that young learners pick up more “rare words” – i.e. new vocabulary – from family dinners compared to when parents simply read stories to them? Both are certainly important for literacy, but because family dinners elicit conversation about numerous topics, children tend to be exposed to a lot of new words. Those who have a larger vocabulary with such words may pick up reading earlier. (Reference: Mealtime Talk Supports Literacy Development).
Reduced risk of negative behaviors
Families who focus on regular mealtimes are associated with adolescents that have a lower risk of substance use, violence, and running away. (Reference: Journal of Adolescence).
Better recovery from cyberbullying
Adolescents who are in families with frequent meals together and dinnertime conversation may recover more quickly from episodes of cyberbullying. (Reference: JAMA Pediatrics).
Better mental health
Regular family meals have been correlated with a lower risk of depression and suicide among adolescents. (Reference: JAMA Pediatrics).
Better parental health too!
A recent study found that frequent family meals were associated with better parental self-esteem, greater family functioning, and lower levels of depression and stress among parents. (Reference: Preventative Medicine.)
51 Conversation Starters for Kids for Your Family Dinner
With all this research, it’s clear that talking to your kids at your family dinner can have numerous benefits for parents and kids alike.
But what should you actually talk about? What if you’re stumped to come up with things to say?
That’s where these family dinner questions come in handy! All of these conversation starts for kids are designed to help get them chatting and sharing.
Questions about your child’s day
These questions are designed to help your child share more about their experiences at school or with their friends.
1. What was your favorite part of the day today?
This question will get them thinking about what they did, and require more than a few more words to answer.
2. What did you do in (subject) today?
Be specific about subjects. Use this as an opportunity to talk about the subjects they both like and dislike. For example if they don’t like math could you discuss why? What can you do to make it easier or less stressful for your child?
3. Who did you play with/what did you do at recess?
Recess is usually a favorite when it comes to school, why not talk about it? You might find about some new friends or possible issues on the playground. As much as we don’t want to think of conflicts at school, it does happen sometimes and your child might not always tell you.
4. What was the hardest part about school today?
This may be a simple answer like “math” but it’s another good question to help get your kids talking about any potential problems they might have had with bullying or other challenges.
5. If you were your teacher at school, what would you do differently? What rules would you make?
Most kids will of course tell you they would make rules about no homework or pizza for lunch every day! But if there are any problems going on at school that your child is nervous to talk about, this can be an indirect way of helping them describe them.
6. If you could change one thing about your day today, what would it be?
It might be related to food, homework, friends – so many potential areas of their day!
Conversation starters about your family
Try adding in some questions about family. It’s important to bond and create trusting and open relationships with your children. Some simple questions can get them talking and opening up about how they feel in a light and fun way.
7. What should we do more of together?
Maybe there are some things that your children would like to do more as a family. Sometimes life gets busy and we forget the importance of going out together and not just focusing on school, homework, sports, work and cleaning. You can try to incorporate their answers into plans over the next few weeks.
8. What’s your favorite thing about our family?
Whether it’s that your family always shows kindness to each other – or simply that mom makes spaghetti a lot – let your kiddo’s express their love with this question.
9. If you could make up some family rules, what would they be?
This might enlighten you on certain things that your kids like and dislike. Often times the younger children might think some rules are unfair to them. Use this as an opportunity to talk about responsibility and how they can show you that they are ready for boundaries to change.
10. If our pets (you can use your pet’s name) could talk, what do you think they would say?
A fun question to get some imagination going.
11. If we could take a family vacation anywhere in the world, where would you want to go? Why?
Who doesn’t love daydreaming about vacations?! Obviously not everywhere is a feasible trip, but perhaps if there are commonalities between the ‘dream vacation’ and something local – you can plan to embrace some similar activities locally.
12. Pretend you are the mom or dad and I’m the kid – what would you teach me?
This can give your child pride in thinking about what they’re good at and what they would teach you.
13. What’s your favorite family tradition that we have?
I love this question, because I can pick out so many traditions that I’ve loved since childhood. You may be surprised at the little things – like donuts on Christmas morning or heart shaped pizzas on Valentine’s Day – that your child treasures.
14. What do you think is different about your life as a kid compared to when mom/dad were kids?
Yes, our kiddos often think we’re from the dark ages – so it’s funny to hear how they thought life was before they were born.
Dinner time questions about values
Questions can also lead to discussions on topics such as kindness, respect, generosity, and a whole list of concepts that are important to talk to your children about.
15. If you won/someone gave you $x, what would you do with it?
Your child’s answer to this might surprise you. Would they choose to spend it on themselves, a family member, a stranger?
16. If you had one superpower, what would it be? What would you use it for?
This question can spark a conversation about using ‘powers’ for good. If you have a talent, how can you use it to help others?
17. Who is the nicest person you know and why are they nice?
Talking about nice people and kindness can help to inspire your child to do the same.
18. What does love mean? What do people do who love each other?
This one is targeted towards the young ones and always gives you either heart-warming or hilarious answers.
19. What are the three most important things in your life?
This may give you an interesting look at what your child values as far as their own friends, possessions, etc.
20. Who is your best friend, and why?
This can help them connect friendship with key values like someone being nice, helping them, etc.
21. What are some ways we could help people this week?
22. Who was kind or helpful to you today? What did they do?
This is a great way of getting children to focus on gratitude for helpful people in our lives.
Fun, silly, or imaginative conversation starters for kids
These conversation starters for kids are designed to be light and fun. If you’re child is having trouble opening up about their day, these might be good ‘warm up’ questions to try instead.
- If you could choose any name in the world, what would you name yourself?
- If you could be in any TV show, which one would you want to live in?
- Which would you rather be – X vs Y? (you can insert different superlatives here, like funniest person vs. smartest person; invisible vs. super strength; etc).
- If you could be an animal, which one would you be? Why?
- If you could have any pet in the world, what would you choose?
- If you were in charge of making up a holiday, what would you create?
- What sports star or celebrity do you want to meet? Why?
- What job do you want when you grow up?
- What job would you never want when you grow up?
- What are you good at?
- What are you proud of?
- If you could live anywhere in the whole world, where would it be?
- What’s your best memory from Christmas?
- If you could be any age, how old would you be and why?
- If you had a robot, what would you make it do?
- What actor would you want to play you if they made a movie about your life?
- If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring with you?
- Who is a person that you wish you saw more? (Friend, relative, etc?)
- Describe your most perfect day ever.
- What would you do all week if there were suddenly no TVs or computers?
Favorite Things Conversation Starters
- What are your three favorite foods?
- What would be your most favorite breakfast if you could have anything?
- What’s your favorite thing to do outside?
- What’s your favorite summertime activity?
- What’s your favorite book/movie? Why?
- What’s your favorite holiday?
- What planet do you want to visit?
- What’s one thing that you want to learn to do better? (Sport, instrument, etc?)
- What’s your favorite smell?
- What’s your favorite joke?
There are thousands of questions that you can come up with to spark conversation. Be creative and see what you can think of to get your kids talking! And if this feels a little unnatural at first, don’t worry – a lot of parenting can feel silly and weird, right?! Keep at it and see if your kids warm up to these kinds of questions after a while.