Some of the most memorable meals we’ve shared as a family were filled with lively conversations and hearty laughter. Dinnertime is a great time to reconnect with everyone after a busy day, but it’s also the perfect place to liven things up a bit and have some fun.
Try adding some of these ideas to your dinner plans this week and stir up some delightful dinner conversations.
One of the easiest conversation starters is this seasonal fill-in-the-blank sentence: “I love ______!” Everyone takes a turn finishing the sentence with their favorite things about the season. This is a great warm-up activity to get everyone thinking; keep going as long as there is interest.
After seeing this done at a local restaurant, it quickly became a regular at our family dinner table.
Using a roll of plain white paper, cover the entire tabletop, fold underneath, and secure it with tape. Then set out a variety of crayons, gel pens, and colored pencils.
There’s just something magnetic about a blank canvas, especially one the size of the dinner table. Start things off by drawing something simple like a heart and a smiley face at each of your kids’ places in their favorite colors. Light up your spouse’s eyes and draw big, red kissy lips coupled with a speech bubble that says “I love you,” and watch your kids wrinkle up their faces and say “ew.”
Then, announce that it’s free-drawing time and encourage everyone to join in. Ask questions, comment on your kids’ drawings, and they’ll get the idea.
Can you tell your family story in pictures? Draw the word “family” in big, bubble letters. What makes your family unique? Maybe you raise chickens or alpacas. Or maybe you’re all musical or serving as missionaries in an interesting foreign country. Add colorful illustrations and words that show who you are as a family. Write your names in fun, creative fonts, and encourage everyone to add a simple self-portrait and include any accessories that highlight individual personalities. Draw your house, and everyone can work together to add any distinctive features.
Or try this fun alternative. Each person draws a simple starter doodle (a figure eight, wiggly lines, or a circle with a triangle on top) near the place setting of the person on his or her left. Then everyone works to transform their doodle into a person, place, or thing.
It doesn’t matter what you doodle or how you doodle, just doodle. Before you know it, your “tablecloth” will be a conversation piece.
This is such a fun activity, because even your youngest toddler can participate, and it’s sure to spark a fun conversation. All you need is a blank piece of paper and some colored pencils, crayons, or markers. Decide on a theme, such as the current season, a holiday, a favorite or recent vacation, a trip to the zoo, or a birthday celebration.
Dad, Mom, or an older child should draw something first, so the younger ones get the idea. Then pass the paper to the next person at the table, and he or she will add something new to the scene. Encourage your kids to talk about what they’re drawing. They’ll no doubt have opinions on everyone else’s contributions. That’s the idea! Keep going until your scene is complete.
Spice up your dinnertime conversation with a little art appreciation (aka picture study). Introduce your kids to some of the most famous paintings in the world all while enjoying your meal.
For free printable art cards, try Layers-of-Learning.com and HomeschoolGiveaways.com. AHumblePlace.com has extensive picture study resources that are free to download. Some museums, such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., allow you to download and print out paintings for free. It’s a good idea to cover the cards and printouts with clear contact paper to keep messes off.
For the first time, choose a painting you think will attract your kids’ attention. This could be one that is colorful and cheerful, portrays a specific event or celebration, or just a painting you find interesting.
After everyone is settled in their seats and has their food, hold up the painting. Pass it around. Let everyone get a good look.
Then observe. If your kids don’t start commenting on their own, you can spark interest by asking open-ended questions like these: What is happening in the painting? What do you like about the painting and why? How does the painting make you feel? Challenge them to describe the painting to someone who’s never seen it.
Family Vacation Planning
Whether you’re planning a week at the beach, a mountain cabin retreat, or a weeklong staycation, this is a great time to get everyone’s input and talk about all the different things you each want to see and do.
Once you’ve determined the destination, cut out some relevant pictures from magazines and scatter these along with some colorful brochures on the dinner table. Start the conversation by sharing a few things you’d like to see and do, but don’t be surprised if your kids jump in with their two cents’ worth before you’ve had a chance to finish. Then just let the conversational planning flow naturally.
Family Photo Inspiration
I love to look at old photos, don’t you? It’s such fun to reminisce and travel back to those joy-filled moments from the past. Kids especially enjoy seeing themselves lovingly wrapped up inside a family photo. It’s that feeling that sets the stage for this conversation starter.
Before dinner, gather a variety of photos of your kids as babies and toddlers; after the table is set, scatter the photos all over the tabletop. Watch their expressions as they sit down and take it all in. Will your kids be able to pick out themselves? Can they identify their siblings? As an added challenge and a fun twist, sneak in a few baby and toddler photos of yourself and your spouse.
When your kids beg you to do this again, consider some of these themes: favorite vacations, birthday celebrations, major events and milestones, and sweet and funny pet photos.