9 Tips for Great Dinnertime Conversations

This photo represents the typical feeling we had in our home for about ten years during mealtimes. Craziness.

For many years, our dinner conversations sounded something like this:

Please chew with your mouths closed.

I don’t yike dis.

Five more bites.

What’s for dessert?

You’re not getting dessert unless you eat your food.

My juice spilled!

Why did you put your cup so close to the edge?

I didn’t. Someone else touched it.

I’m going to frow up.

No, you’re not. Just eat. Eat. And please pick up all those noodles you just spilled on the ground. And those peas.

But this isn’t my faborite.

Can everybody please just EAT?!

Oh, those crazy dinner hours seemed to stretch on forever, and sometimes I honestly wondered how that time spent flinging food all over the kitchen could possibly contribute to my children’s success on their SATs.

But we made it through, and now that the spills and whines have subsided, we can actually sit around the table together and talk.

The funny thing, however, is that sometimes after we’ve gone through all the effort of preparing a nice meal, setting the table, and creating a quiet, TV-free space in the day for us to bond as a family, we just stare at each other as we eat–without really knowing what to talk about.  (I think we were all stunned by the silence.)

After this happened three or four times without any improvement, I turned to our Power of Moms Facebook community for ideas, and our “table talk” has now become a favorite part of my day.  Here are some conversation topics you might like to try in your family.

  • The “Would You Rather” Game: Family members take turns asking each other questions starting with that phrase.  For example, “Would you rather be the President of the United States or a lion tamer?” or “Would you rather eat liver or three cans of green beans?”  Kind of fun, don’t you think?
  • Historical Events: Some families keep a calendar near the dinner table listing major historical events that happened on each day of the year.  They find the current day on that calendar, discuss the details of the event that happened, and give their children the opportunity to ask questions, share their opinions, etc.
  • Special Family Events: This is similar to the one above, but instead of focusing on world history, you focus on your family history.  You could have a calendar listing the birthdays of your ancestors, when each child first walked, when you and your spouse got engaged, or when you went on a big family trip.  You could also add to this calendar whenever something funny or meaningful happens.  (It’s so nice to know that special moments will be reviewed at some point in the future, and it’s wonderful to help our children connect with those who came before.)

  • Religion and Spirituality: The dinner hour can be a choice time to read from sacred text, discuss spiritual topics, or reflect on the question, “How did you see God in your life today?”  On our refrigerator, we have a “prayer list,” where we write the names of friends or family members who need extra help or strength in their lives.  Dinnertime is a great opportunity to review that list, discuss how each person is doing, and talk about how we’ve seen our prayers answered.
  • Math and Logic: If your children are a little older, they might enjoy some verbal quizzes involving math or logic. I love www.folj.com.
  • Joke of the Day: This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it works for children of all ages, and there are tons of joke websites, joke books, etc. that could provide lots of fun memories.

  • Warm Fuzzies: You can purchase a simple glass jar and a bag of colorful pom-poms, and assign each child his or her own color.  Then at dinnertime, each person describes a “warm fuzzy” from his or her day (a time when he or she did something nice for someone else).

  • Current Events/World Cultures: The fabulous book, Growing Up Global, has tons of excellent ideas to discuss geography, various cultures, and current events with our families.  I’m still in the market for a large map that we can laminate and put on our table.  Wouldn’t it be fun to talk about a few different countries each week–and let our children share what they have been learning in their own studies?

This map is hanging on Shawni’s wall (from www.71toes.com). I love the idea of “showing our children the world” during meal time.

 

  • LOTS of Good Questions: Most mothers agree that the question, “How was your day?” is destined to fail.  But if we take a little time to get creative with our questions, some powerful, memorable conversations will follow. To make this simple for you, we’ve put together a PDF with 35 unique conversation starters.  If you’d like, you can print it out, tape it inside a cupboard, put it into a sheet protector, or cut it into strips and put them into a small jar at the center of your table.

Download your Family Dinnertime Conversation Starters here.

Our family doesn’t always have dinner discussions like the ones outlined above.  Last night, for example, my children had plenty of their own exciting things to say.  We heard about my daughter’s sixth grade graduation and about a friend who was struggling.  We talked about our summer plans, and my four-year-old reminded us how many months are left until he turns five.  We laughed at my husband’s jokes, decided we really wanted s’mores for dessert, and flipped through a couple of book catalogs that had arrived in the mail.

Nothing fancy, nothing scripted.  But it was sweet.

Family time is priceless, and even though it’s often messy, noisy, and frustrating, there is great power in having deliberate conversations with those we love the most. It’s just nice to be ready with something meaningful when the opportunity presents itself.

Here’s to building wonderful memories around the table!

QUESTION: Do you have any fun dinner conversation starters you’d like to share?

CHALLENGE: Pick one of the ideas above (or identify one of your own), and make tonight’s dinner conversation into a binding family experience.

This post is sponsored by:

donny osmond home

 

SAVE TIME AND MONEY WITH EMEALS MEAL PLANS

Recently, I had the chance to try out eMeals, a service that helps busy people easily organize their dinner plans so they can create healthy, low-cost meals without all the stress.

I had such a great time with this.  The meals were simple and delicious, and my children even helped out with the food preparation.  The reason I like eMeals is because they’re not just about “cooking and eating.”  They want families to connect and enjoy their time together around the table.  Exactly what we’re shooting for here at The Power of Moms.

 *We featured a giveaway with this post, and it is now closed. (Our winner is Ariana.) Thanks so much to all who entered!

If you are still interested in trying out eMeals, they have some excellent plans for a low monthly fee.

(Power of Moms has signed up to be an affiliate of eMeals, but the opinions above are my own.)

 

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Comments

  1. Kris Cormany says

    I really like the idea of emeals. I find it extremely difficult to plan, prepare, and execute mealtime! I liked emeals on Facebook and followed them on pinterest! Thank you for the conversation starters! I can’t wait to try them all!!

  2. Sarah says

    I like this idea. I’d try the Natural/Organic family meal plan (we’re trying to be healthier…”trying”)

  3. ehosto says

    I think I would try the regular meal plan for a family but the clean eating plan looks interesting too….

  4. Kristi says

    Yes, I use emeals and have for over a year now! I love them! I use there low-carb plan but also tried their family Kroger plan. I have never been disappointed.I love the savings of time and money also the recipes are easy and yummy. I keep the family favorites recipes in a binder to use during vacations or birthday parties or special occasions. I like your conversation and look forward to hearing what my kids say. Oh I already follow emeals on pinterest.

  5. ashleigh says

    Ikea has a really great wall map. We use it to show where grandparents live and where Daddy goes on his business trips. Maybe when the kids get older we can move it near the table…

  6. says

    Great post April – so many wonderful ideas. We often do childhood memories — our kids love hearing about how naughty we were :). eMeals sounds fun! I think I’d try the standard family plan first and if I liked it, try the natural/organic. Looks wonderful!

  7. mothering-matters says

    I would use the family meals – for Walmart (or Farm Fresh). Though – we need meal plans that feed 7 people (or more). Guess I could double some of the plans/recipes.
    Might need to follow a GF one. I’ve cut out gluten this week to see if it helps my gut that’s been bothering me lately. We’ll see if I have to stay on this diet or not. (kind of hoping not . . .as I miss my yummy bread and other gluten items!)

  8. says

    These are all great ideas! My kids are 14, 13, 9, & 7, so you’d think that dinner would be a little more civilized, but we can still count on spilled water, teasing, and “I don’t like this”. We also hear “STOP CHEWING WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN” (from our 13 year old manners police) at least once a night. Still, I love dinner time, and we try to eat together at the table every night. I especially like the “Historical Facts” and “Would You Rather” ideas.

  9. Casey says

    I would like to try the natural and organic plan. It seems like it would have fewer processed foods. I try to feed my family as many fruits and veggies as possible… Which alot of times you have to sneak in at the end of the day. This plan would definitely help with that challenge.

  10. Brandi says

    I liked Emeals on Facebook. I would just like the regular family meal plan. I’m so tired of making the same things and when I try something new, the kids complain. I need some tried and true successes to make meal time easier on me! :)

  11. branbryn says

    I liked eMeals on Facebook. I would love the Regular Family Plan. I’m tired of making the same things and get complaints when I try something new. I need some tried and true successes to make dinner time easier for me!

  12. skyemmc says

    EMeals sounds like something that might really help me. I HATE planning menus! I never know what to plan. I would pick a general family plan for a store near me – possibly Kroeger or Walmart. I liked on Facebook and on Pinterest. Pick me, pick me!

  13. Krishele says

    I would really like to try the clean cooking menu. I’ve been preparing monthly menus for years now, but I always dread the day each month when it’s time to figure out the menu and grocery list for the upcoming month. I’d be all in already, but we’re on a tight budget and I’m not sure if the $ quoted for the groceries are for west coast prices…cause out in the east, it’s a bit more pricey. I’d love to have a chance to try emeals out for a couple of months.

  14. says

    I’d like to try the mix and match plan. Okay, seriously, I’d probably try the regular family plan. Although I try to eat low-fat, low-carb, my son is seriously picky and my husband likes “regular” food so that would be easiest for us. I’d love to win – I’ve always wanted to try something like this1

  15. Rebekah says

    Loved this article, great ideas!! e-meals has been a huge blessing for my family. We are a family of 6 with me working full time! The task of trying to figure out a menu and then a grocery list was some weeks so overwhelming we would just eat out all week. Which was not how I wanted to live. The recipes are easy to follow & so many of them can be done in the crock pot!!

  16. rubydtk421 says

    I would really like to try the clean cooking menu. Those dinner conversation starters are great! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Carrie says

    Emeals looks like a GREAT idea! I’m always struggling to come up with a meal plan for the week and this would make it so much easier. I would try the Family Aldi plan first since we’re trying to keep grocery costs down, then maybe the Clean Eating plan later.

  18. says

    I loved your handout and dinner ideas! I have never heard of emeals but it looks fabulous! I would try the Specialty Family Menus (clean eating). Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  19. Lani Hilton says

    We love to ask the children how they have helped Simone today or been helped by someone. Emeals looks fun. I would try the regular plan for 6 for Walmart or whole foods. Thanks April!

  20. Stephanie says

    Wow what an awesome site! If I were to try a plan from emeals.com it would definitely be clean eating since that is something very important to our family right now! It is still a learning process for all of us and it would be great to have some help!

  21. Amy Armbrust says

    I would love to try the clean eating. I used to use emeals but stopped as I wanted less processed foods. I would love to give them another chance.

  22. mamato4 says

    E-meals is such a great plan to make dinners easy, and have the planning done for you! I say I’m an awful cook, but really I think that I just lack the planning it takes to make them simple and healthy, and I always tend to “overdo” it! For our family, I would love to try the clean eating plan! With a 9,7,3 and 1 year old, a healthy and budget friendly meal plan sounds seriously “dreamy”! ;-) Thank you so much!

  23. says

    Regular menus for two at wal mart – we only have one little munchkin and we usually feed her off of our plates at dinner time. I’ve been trying to plan better menus but it seems like I go in cycles a week or two of really good meal planning and then a week without. Maybe something like this would help.

  24. says

    Regular Menus for 2 at Wal Mart. I could use some help with menu planning, I do really well for a couple weeks and then lose it for a week and start all over.

  25. Ariana says

    I grew up with 7 siblings so I dont really get how to plan a meal for less then 8 people. My son is still to little to cook for so I would do the specialty for two any of the areas on that would be helpful!

    • April Perry says

      Ariana, you are our winner! You have won a 3-month eMeals membership. Congratulations! Please email april (at) powerofmoms.com, and I’ll set you up with your giveaway.

  26. rosemom says

    I would try the clean eating plans. I’ve been trying to cut out at least some of our processed food lately and this would give a big boost!

  27. Heather says

    Wow, That would really be amazing for my Family, I am always bring to be organized with lists and calendars but nothing seems to work. And then I want to try something new and forget when the kids say they liked it. This meal plan online would really help us, especially since I have a big family of 6. I love that they offer all different types of food choices. Thank you…for letting me know about this, even if we didn’t win . Thank you. I love this website too. I am learning so much.

  28. Becky says

    Awesome resource April! Thank you! I have never heard of emeals before either! I would try the clean eating plan!

  29. says

    This post was very inspiring for me. One thing I do love though is we recently moved into a larger home and I love it – its large enough now where our whole family can sit at the table and eat together. One question that often gets asked of everyone at the table is, “Did anything funny or unusual happen today?” Of course, my kids almost always have something to share. My husband does too. We often talk about spiritual things over dinner as well – but I loved the other ideas. Such great ideas!

  30. jensmith05 says

    I would love to try the Clean Eating Meal Plan- I have recently been researching eating more like this but was curious to know how much it would cost and what variety is available- this would DEFINITELY help me out! I am cooking for my husband, 5 & 3 year old daughters and a little baby boy is going to make his debut in about 10 weeks!

  31. dhumberstone says

    I would absolutely use the Kroger family plan. I LOVE the fact that they actually incorporate the sale items into the plan. This would definitely help my family!

  32. Melanie says

    I would like to try their Natural/Organic meal plan for families. I also liked them on FB and pinterest. Thanks for introducing me to a great resource!

  33. JT Moore says

    This is a great idea! I dread coming up with dinner ideas every week that will please most of my family (with four kids, most is about all you will please!). I would love to be able to try it out to make sure the recipes are ones my family would like. Also, do you know if you can change the plan to vegetarian or gluten free after you have signed up?

  34. Michelle Huegel says

    I would probably try the regular family meal from Walmart, but might check out their gluten free menu – one of my children has a variety of food allergies/intolerances, including wheat.

  35. says

    Oh my goodness! I would love regular or vegetarian meal plans–and I could SO use help with meal planning… waiting until 4:00 or 5:00 PM doesn’t really seem to be cutting it.

  36. Karen Farnham says

    Sounds like a great idea! Some days, okay, most days I am so rushed I feel like everything we eat comes from a box or can! I would choose the any store plan with e-meals.

  37. says

    I would like to try the regular or vegetarian meal plans–what a lifesaver! Waiting until 4:00 PM to make a dinner plan is proving slightly less than effective.:) Thanks for sharing.

  38. Wendy says

    I would try the meals for 2-3. And holy cow, if it really worked it would make a HHUUGGEE difference in my day! I hate deciding what to make for dinner! I have a million recipe’s but just hate making the decision; thus, frustration every night and then frustration because I have to do it all over again the next day! My husband would praise this website if I were able to win 3 months free :) It’s really the only way I would begin trying :)

  39. Wendy says

    I would try the meals for 2-3. I hate deciding what to make for dinner! It’s the worst part of the day and the most stressful. And then I’m frustrated because I know I have to do it all over again tomorrow. My husband will prise the site if I’m able to try it. 3 months free is the only way I would begin using it :)

  40. Mary Christensen says

    Loved this article! I haven’t heard of e-meals before…what a great idea! This would help so much with our busy schedule! I would try the portion control family plan at any store. What a great idea!

  41. Erin says

    I would try the low-carb family meals. We’re trying to eat healthier and get away from simple carbs. I’m hoping these aren’t too heavy on meat, so lots of dark green veggies?

  42. tomiebankhead says

    For the e-meals…my family would LOVE if I could get some gluten free help! I have had to eat gluten free for 9 months now, and often I just make a meal for my family and then eat something plain and raw. When I do try to make a familiar meal with substituting different flours and sauces, my sweet husband asks “so,did you add something different:)? I’m stuck…and because of this we often don’t eat together, so I am excited to try gluten free e-meals!

    I love the idea of talking about the big wide world over dinner. My little girls love when we tell stories about our time living in Guatemala, Russia, and visiting Europe…what a perfect idea to expand.

  43. Taralee says

    I really struggle with meal planning. I really want to be better at this and I know it will save my family a lot of money which we definitely need. Emeals looks like a perfect solution! Our family would use the specialty family plan for low carb meals. Healthy carbs, proteins and fresh veggies are my husband’s favorites!

  44. rstruhs says

    Wow! emeals looks amazing. I liked them on fb but am not on pinterest.
    My family would try the regular family meals from walmart, i think…that menu would appeal most to my picky eaters. :) Thank you for Power of Moms!!

  45. Danielle says

    I would do he family Ralph’s plan. I need this. Mom of 4 with no ideas for good food for my kids this is great.

  46. Chantel says

    I think I would try the Specialty low-carb family meals. We love our bread, but need to eat more fruits and veggies. And having grown up on a farm, my husband is a real “meat and potatoes” guy. Meat is a staple at our dinner table, but I’d like some variety.

  47. Brooke Miller says

    I would try the regular meal plan from any/other grocery store. emeals looks like a really great program. I am definitely interested in trying it!

  48. Corissa says

    I would try the regular family meals at Whole Foods or Fry’s (owned by Kroger). This is a great idea!

  49. Leah says

    I would choose the “healthy / organic whole foods family dinner plan.” I am looking to go all organic and this would be a great way to start!

  50. s_lynne says

    Emeals sounds like a great idea. Since I live abroad, I’d definitely have to choose “any store” because certain ingredients (like Cheez-Its, haha!) can be hard to find. I’ll be sure to like eMeals on Facebook.

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