I have a confession to make… before we had a child, my husband and I were TERRIBLE at eating dinner at the table. We were perfectly content with eating on the couch with the television on in the background. I’m not going to judge people who do that (just as I don’t want others judging me for doing it!), but in my opinion, we were probably missing out on a great opportunity to connect with each other and have meaningful conversations.
Our kiddo can’t talk to us yet, but we want to get in the habit of eating at the table and spending quality time together, so… slowly, but surely, we are trying to be better at it. It’s not always possible… I’m at the office two nights a week. I know a lot of families who have all kinds of extracurricular activities that prevent them from eating dinner as a family. Life can sometimes get in the way, but I am a fan of eating dinner at the table, without electronics, when we can. So the first step is to get all your family members to the dinner table (without phones or background tv/radio).
The second step is to talk. I think every caregiver has, at one time or another, asked “did you have a good day?” and gotten a one-word reply. Or “how was your day?” and gotten the one-word answer, “good.” If you want more elaborative answers, you might have to get creative with your questions. Instead of “how was your day,” try “what was the best part about your day?” Or “what happened today that made you feel happy?”
*I like the Two Positives and a Negative discussion. Every family member gets to talk about two positive things from their day and one negative thing from their day. Sometimes talking about the negative thing can be difficult, but it’s important for kiddos to be able to talk about things they didn’t like about their day and get some empathy or insight from their parents about it.*
For some other ideas on questions to ask, Families Alive has a wonderful list of 101 open-ended questions to get you started! Some of them are going to be really difficult for smaller children to answer, but you can use these to think of your own (age-appropriate) questions.
“1) If you could be famous for one thing, what would it be and why?
2) If you could meet any US president, which one would you choose and why?
3) Name one time when someone has shown you a lot of love.
4) If you could choose one award to win (real or made-up), what would you pick and why?
5) If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
6) What does your dream home look like?
7) Tell me about a time when you had to be really brave.
8) If you could only do one thing for a whole day, what would you pick?
9) Where is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
10) What is your favorite thing to do when you’re by yourself?
11) When you are a parent, what traditions from our family would you like to carry on? What things would you change?
12) If you had to go out and get a job today, where would you want to work and why?
13) What is one of your earliest memories?
14) If you could fix just one problem in the world, what would you pick?
15) What is your favorite worship song? Why is it important to you?
16) What is one goal you have for this year? What’s a step you can take today to help you reach that goal?
17) What is one way you saw God working today?
18) What country would you love to visit? Why?
19) What’s the best surprise you ever received?
20) If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?
21) What’s something you would love to do on a rainy afternoon?
22) If we could do one thing as a family on Thanksgiving that we’ve never done, what would it be?
23) How can we pray for you today?
24) If you could only keep 3 items from your room, which ones would you pick?
25) If you could time travel, where and when would you go first? Why?
26) What is your favorite board game and why?
27) Is there someone in your life who you are struggling with? How can you show them the love of Jesus?
28) What was the best part of your day? How about the worst?
29) If you could invent any holiday, what would you call it and how would it be celebrated?
30) Who is one person you would love to get to know better?
31) If you had endless money and supplies, what invention would you make and why?
32) What is something you feel like you are talented at? How can you use that for God’s glory?
33) What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in school this year?
34) What one thing would you really like to do as a family?
35) If you could go on a road trip to anywhere, where would you go?
36) If you could eat dinner with 3 people, living or dead, who would you pick?
37) Who makes you laugh more than anyone else?
38) What is your favorite thing to do with your friends?
39) If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you pick?
40) Which person would you most like to visit right now? Why?
41) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? How about 10? 50?
42) What is your favorite family tradition? How can we make it even better/more meaningful?
43) Which of the fruits of the Spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23) do you need to work on? How can you do that today?
44) What do you feel like children understand better than adults?
45) What is your favorite movie or TV show and why?
46) How many children would you like to have? Why?
47) What is a characteristic you really admire about someone in this family? (Make sure everyone gets praised!)
48) If you could create any ice cream flavor, what would it be?
49) What is your favorite Bible story and why?
50) What is your most vivid childhood memory? Why do you think you remember it so well?
51) What is your favorite season and why?
52) If you could decorate your room any way you want, how would you do it?
53) What is the biggest struggle in your life right now? How can we be praying for you?
54) What is your idea of the perfect day?
55) If you could go back in time and spend a day with any Bible character, who would you pick and why?
56) If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
57) What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
58) If you could have a weird, unusual pet, what would you choose?
59) What are the qualities that make a good friend?
60) What is your favorite chore? What is your least favorite chore?
61) Tell us something that you’re really good at.
62) Tell us something that you wish you were really good at.
63) When you grow up, where would you like to live?
64) What would you do if you won the lottery?
65) Who is your favorite adult (teacher, coach, babysitter)?
66) What would you do if you found a big bag of cash at the park?
67) Which distant family member do you wish could come visit us today?
68) What is your biggest fear?
69) If I gave you $10 to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
70) Share your favorite joke with us.
71) What is your favorite holiday and why?
72) Which Bible character would you like to meet?
73) What’s one decision you’ve made that you wish you could change?
74) What do you think heaven is like?
75) Are you more of a leader or a follower?
76) If you could talk to everyone in the entire world for 5 minutes, what would you want to say?
77) What are some things you would like to accomplish before you die?
78) What is something that annoys you or makes you angry?
79) What do you think is your best quality? What about biggest weakness?
80) If you had to write a book about anything, what would you pick?
81) If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would you choose and why?
82) If you could design a theme park, what would it be like?
83) Would you rather be a movie star, a pro athlete, or the leader of a country?
84) What do you think has been the best day of your life so far?
85) If you could be a character from any book, movie, or TV show, who would you choose and why?
86) What would you do if you knew your best friend or sibling was stealing?
87) Have you ever stuck up for someone who was getting picked on? If not, what will you do next time it happens?
88) What is one meal you hope we don’t serve again? What food do you wish we ate more often?
89) When you are sad or angry, what do you do to deal with that? How can we help?
90) Which of our family rules do you agree with? Are there any that you think are unfair?
91) Can you think of good ways to tell your friends about Jesus?
92) Is it ever ok to tell a lie? Can you think of an example?
93) Who is your best friend? What do you like about them? Is there anything you don’t?
94) What is one thing you have a strong commitment to never do?
95) If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future first?
96) Tell me about your most embarrassing moment.
97) If you were in a band or managed a sports team, what would you call it?
98) Tell me about a time when you did the right thing and it was hard.
99) What is one of your bad habits?
100) What are some important qualities your future spouse needs to have?
101) When do you feel loved the most?”
Endnote: some of these are great to ask your spouse, even if the children aren’t around.