About a year ago, my family got a pack of “table topic” cards in a meal kit box. I initially rolled my eyes at another free gimmick that would probably end up in our trash, but I hung on to them. I threw them out on the table one evening at dinner and our four-year-old instantly wanted to use them.
It’s really simple. Each card has a question. Some are simple, “What’s your favorite food to eat at dinnertime?” While others provoke more thought, “Name three times that something made you smile today” or “If you opened up a store, what would you sell?”
We ask a question and go around the table to hear everyone’s responses. Some days we only do one card and it launches us into a meaningful conversation and others we do questions throughout the entire meal. There is no right way to do it. Our only rule is that we listen to each other and allow everyone space to share their answers.
Have you ever met a four-year-old who doesn’t ask a million questions a day? My son was hooked and now asks for the cards at every dinner. As for me, I was surprised by how much I loved them.
You may be thinking your family is full of talkers and you don’t need help getting a conversation started. Believe me, my toddlers (and me!) are anything but quiet, but I’ve found these beneficial for many reasons.
Why You Need Table Topic Cards
1. Dinners together may be the only time a family has to connect. It’s important to make that time count with meaningful conversations.
2. My kids look forward to dinner time, even if they aren’t excited about what’s for dinner. It keeps them at the table longer and keeps them engaged in conversation instead of whining about their food.
3. After a long day at work or home with the kids, my husband and I found ourselves talking above the children. We had our own adult conversations. These cards brought the focus back to the entire family and showed our kids that we value and cherish conversations with them.
4. It is a great opportunity to learn turn-taking and improve listening skills. Rather than everyone talking at once, this gives each person a turn to speak. Others quietly listen knowing they will also get a turn.
5. They keep the conversations positive. All the questions are focused on dreams, ideas, things we are thankful for, or positive experiences.
6. My son seems to open up more about his time at school with these questions. Questions like “What was the best part of your day today?” elicit deeper thought and answers than the typical, “how was your day?” The questions trigger my son’s memory, and he ends up telling us more about his day.
7. Even when we don’t use the cards, the kids now use their own creativity to come up with questions and spark conversations. We’ve created a routine and now the cards aren’t always needed.
If you have teenagers, you are sure to get some eye rolls with something like this, but I think families with young kids would benefit from creating a routine with conversation starters. While we got ours from a meal kit, there are plenty of similar products out there, like this one. Or make it a family activity and create your own!
If it seems simple, that’s because it is. Small little cards with questions have given me some of my favorite memories of sitting around the table with my family.
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