You all know the drill: It’s dinnertime. Everyone is exhausted, likely in a rush to either get to practice, homework, bedtime routine, etc. Let’s also not forget that everyone is STARVING! You need to decompress from the day and, as a parent, you long to connect with your children in a meaningful way. Yet for some reason, you end up defaulting to the standard: asking about their day at school/daycare, their test, their homework or project assignments, or something that needs to be completed. Immediately your child slumps down in the chair, grunts, rolls their eyes, and even leaves the table. If it’s a toddler or young child (yet older children can also resort to this), you might get screaming and/or tantruming. And just like that, your plans for a nice family mealtime have derailed.
In my house with two teenagers, this happens frequently. I am constantly battling this scenario because I don’t want our family mealtimes (which are fewer and fewer the older my kids get!) to turn into a shouting match. Yet, I also don’t want to resort to avoiding conversation by engaging in “small talk” or, even worse, eating in silence while staring at our phones/devices and not communicating at all. In fact, that is the main reason we have a “family electronics station” where all devices are placed during mealtimes and other important times (homework, sleeping, etc.).
How can we meaningfully communicate and enjoy each other’s company in a way that promotes bonding, relaxation, and fun during mealtimes? My favorite way to do this is by using conversational starter cards such as “How well do you know me?” cards, “Talking Point” cards, or “CreateFun Connection Cards For Kids”. These cards (and hundreds of others) are available on Amazon and in your local stores such as Target and Walmart. There are a variety of topic choices, as well as cards that are appropriate for all ages. For example, the “Talking Point” series has editions for young kids, teens, a family version, and a Christian version, just to name a few. The company playmeo has developed emoji picture cards that don’t require reading, and that inspire conversation about emotions. Using conversation starter cards with pictures is a perfect way to involve your younger children in this family activity.
Conversation starter cards provide opportunities to learn more about each member of the family while involving everyone at the table, regardless of their age. There have been so many times during this activity when my kids have answered a question in a way that surprised me, made me feel proud, and even taught me something I never knew about that child. Engaging in this mealtime activity has served to support my conviction that I am raising really great human beings! It’s also validating when they invite friends over for dinner, and their friends actually request the activity. Wouldn’t it be awesome if those kids brought the activity home to their families, and this mealtime conversation tradition was passed along to other families? Now it’s time for YOU to continue and spread this tradition!
Below are the links to some of the examples I mentioned above: