Editor’s note: this article was written in September 2014, which was a remote time, more than three weeks ago, when people had schedules that made it difficult to find time for all the family to get together. As we stay at home in order to slow the coronavirus pandemic, we don’t lack for opportunities for family togetherness. But we could always have better conversations.
If you are having trouble getting conversation going with your kids, try one of these games. Not only will you make mealtime more entertaining, you’ll also strengthen your relationship with one another.
1. Two truths and a false. This game appeals to my kids’ imaginations, and I usually learn something new about their day that they forgot or neglected to tell me. To play, go around the table and take turns sharing two events that happened that day and one that did not. Who can guess which one is false? For example, “I got a B on my spelling test. I saw a goat at school. I sat with Gina at lunch today.”
2. Get creative. Christie Zemencik, a mom of children ages 18, 14 and 7, says she covers the table with butcher paper and puts crayons out. “My girls draw or write random things that usually lead to conversations as to why that was on their minds,” she says.
3. What is your rose, thorn and bud? Many families discuss the ups and downs of the day to get conversation rolling. My 9-year-old son introduced me to this conversation starter: The rose symbolizes the highlight of your day, the thorn is the most frustrating or worst part of the day, and your bud is what you are looking forward to most the next day.
4. Conversation in a jar. Karen Conklin, a mom of children ages 9, 7 and 3, created a jar with dinnertime conversation starters on strips of paper. “An example is ‘Name two people who made you smile today and why,'” she says. Her children enjoy adding conversation ideas to the jar, too.
5. Table topics. Julie Melchior, a mom of children ages 15, 12 and 9, says she purchased a pack of Christmas-themed conversation questions last year. Each night during the holiday season, the family selected a card to discuss.
“The kids couldn’t wait to sit down and get the cards passed out,” Melchior says. “It was so interesting for my husband and me to listen to their answers and hear what they remembered from their past holidays. It gave everyone an opportunity to share and listen, and we talked about things that probably wouldn’t come up in normal dinnertime conversation.”
Why family mealtime matters. “The union of a meal together fosters feelings of warmth, love and belonging,” says Jessica Velazquez, a healthy living director with the YMCA. “It promotes communication between family members and provides an opportunity for parents to give special attention to their kids.”
Eating dinner together also provides parents with a valuable opportunity to model basic, face-to-face social skills and etiquette, skills that are increasingly important to develop in an era where much of our children’s communication is conducted through technology.