Setting the Table for a New Year

Spilled milk, phones ringing, under-the-table-leg-kicking, a blaring television, fingers texting, over-the-table-elbow-shoving… is it possible to pack anything else around the family dinner table?  As busy and chaotic as meal time might seem, the dinner table is the perfect place to serve up some conversation family-style.

Forget what Miss Manners once said and start encouraging your kids to talk while they eat (after they swallow, of course)!  Dinnertime is the perfect time to hear about their day, their opinions, and what’s going on in their little heads.  Get past the one word answers and make your kids give you a mouthful of conversation.  While getting to know your kids on a deeper level, you’ll also be giving them practice at thinking quickly, forming arguments and opinions, and expressing their thoughts.

Simple conversation starters will get the ball rolling and before you know it, your kids will be bringing a lot more to the table than hungry bellies.  Try some of these conversation starters or make up your own:

  • What was the __________ (choose one: funniest . . . most surprising . . . most predictable . . . dullest) thing that happened to you today?
  • If you were writing a newspaper article about your day, what would be the headline?
  • Teach us one thing that you learned today that you think we don’t know yet.
  • If you had one hour alone with the President of the U.S., what would you want to discuss or talk about?
  • Which cartoon character would you most like to have as a next door neighbor?  Why?
  • If you won the lottery (or won $100) what is the first thing you would buy?
  • Imagine you had an identical twin; name three things that would be really great about having an identical twin and three things that would be “not so great.”
  • Which fairy tale character would you most like to take a vacation with?  Why?
  • If you were a plant and could be planted anywhere in the world, what kind of plant would you be? Where would you like to be planted and grow?
  • If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  • If the sky suddenly started to rain candy, what candy would you want it to rain?
  • If you were to take a time machine 50 years into the future, what do you think life will be like? What will you do with your free time?  How do you think people will communicate or prepare food?
  • What kind of car would you say you are most like?  If you could be any car, which one would you choose?
  • If you could invite any famous person to your birthday party, who would it be?  Why?
  • If you could create a national chain of restaurants designed for kids, what would you call it? What kinds of food would you serve?  What would the theme of the restaurant be?
  • If you had to choose one modern convenience, appliance, or technology that you just couldn’t live without, what would it be?
  • What was the best birthday party you remember having?  Tell what you remember about it.
  • Where will you be, and what do you think you will be doing in 10 -15 years?
  • If you had a choice, would you rather live in the city or the country?  Why?
  • If you could be a TV producer, what would be the name of your new show?  Who would you get to star in it?  What would your show be about?
  • In the movie about your life, what actor would play you? Your best friend? Your family members?

Another way to get the table talk going is to play a little game.  President Obama plays a game with his family called “Roses and Thorns.”  Everyone takes a turn describing a good thing that happened that day (rose) and a low moment or tough problem they had to deal with (thorn) during the day.  Whatever the approach, set your dinner table with conversation to strengthen relationships and make memories to last a lifetime.

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