Eating together is something most families aim to do. But let’s be honest: there’s the idea of a happy family meal, and then there’s actual reality.
Perhaps you have a picky eater (who is less than thrilled with the meal you’ve slaved over), or a hangry tween (that awful combo of hungry and over-tired), or worse still: a moody teen. Whoever you find around your table, here’s how to season your mealtime conversation so that it’s a little less stressful and a lot more fun:
Add a pot of questions to your table.
This simple addition to our dinners has really transformed them. Instead of getting stuck in the same rut of asking the same questions every evening, or having one person (the most talkative child) hog all the talk time, each of us having a turn to pick out our own question and answer it has allowed us to learn new things about one another and laugh a lot more in the process too.
Here’s how it works: as everyone is finishing off their meal, we whip out our pot of questions (we use a jar) and everyone gets to dip their hand in and choose their own question to answer.
The little ones need us to read their questions for them, but they’re just as excited to answer and contribute to what’s become the highlight of our meals together.
What questions to ask you ask? Good question! My hubby and I spent hours brainstorming, scouring the Internet and asking loads of our friends for ideas. The result: a list of no less than 250 questions to get everyone at the table really talking.
These aren’t just any questions, they’re the tried-and-tested best kind of questions – the kind that every age (from preschooler to grandparent) can enjoy answering. Not just fun to answer, they draw out incredible insights and reflections from everyone and help us to understand each other better whilst also coaching our kids on how to speak and listen better.
Instead of scratching your head and coming up with your own list, you’re welcome to start with ours. Click here for a free print-ready version.
Here are 3 different ways to use this list…
- Print it out, cut each question out separately and get each person to choose one from the ‘question jar’. Then go in a circle, as each person reads and answers their question. If they can’t read (like most people in my house) then read it for them. If the level of comprehension is too high, you may need to paraphrase it.
- If you don’t have the time or inclination to print them out, keep the list on your phone and ask each person to pick any number from 1-252. After they’ve randomly chosen a number, read out the correlated question. This might work well for older kids, but we’ve found our younger kids love fishing around in an actual jar with their actual sticky hands for their own actual, tangible question. Each to their own!
- Instead of everyone choosing their own question, from time to time, select the same question for everyone to answer.
One final disclaimer: having these questions has been a real bonus, but they haven’t magically eliminated all dinnertime drama from our lives… we still have a picky eater and there’s often a handful of hangry others too. With 5 young kids (4 of them boys) taking up the majority of the space around our table, the percentage of times a question is answered with a good flush of toilet humor is uncomfortably high.
But the times we have gotten it right, and everyone remains fully-clothed, in control of their emotions, listening to one another and offering engaging answers, makes it all worthwhile.
Remember Mums and dads, the goal is not perfection but slow progress in the right direction. So here’s to happier meals together, with more memories made in the midst of the ordinary moments of family life.