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mini-resolution: come up with some new dinnertime conversation-starters.

by Meagan Francis on January 24, 2012

Last night as we sat eating mashed potatoes (big win for Mom!) and meatloaf (not so much!) I became aware that my efforts at dinnertime conversation have become, well, stale. Apparently “What was the best part of school today?” and “How about the worst?” are not as titillating to four growing boys as discussions of botflies that can burrow into an unfortunate individual’s flesh and reproduce.

The botfly discussion was most decidedly not table-appropriate, but if you can believe it, the banter even deteriorated from there, getting grosser and grosser until I found myself standing up and hollering something like, “That’s IT! You are all DISGUSTING! Can’t we all act like CIVILIZED PEOPLE????”

I need some new material.

Family meal time is important to me, so making it peaceful, low-stress and enjoyable for all of us is a definite priority. Miriam Weinstein (author of The Surprising Power of Family Meals) has a whole list of conversation starters on her site. I’m looking them over and picking a couple to add to my dinnertime repertoire.

They’ve gotta be better than botflies.

Is there a small, simple way you can improve time with your family – today? Does your mealtime banter need a makeover, too?

I’m halfway through a four-week series of mini-resolutions: small, simple improvements I’m making in different areas of my life. This week I’m focusing on “family”. I hope you’ll join me!


Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi January 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Dear Meagan,
I love your Mindful Mondays and your mini-resolutions. It is so much easier for me to make a change when I focus on it for a short period of time. Things I try to do for a week stick much longer than things I try to do for a year. This week I am working on using a kind, gentle voice {rather than a frustraited or flabergasted tone} when redirecting my children.


Meagan Francis January 26, 2012 at 8:54 am

Heidi, I’m so glad to hear that! And yes, using a kind, gentle voice can be hard, but I find that when I do, I automatically FEEL calmer than when I use an irritated voice. Sometimes actions have to come before we’re ready to feel them :)


Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm January 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Yikes, botflies don’t sound very appealing!

A conversation starter we got from friends is doing your “sad, mad, glad”. Everyone shares a thing that made them sad, mad & glad that day. I like the days where neither of us can think of mads or sads, but we have several glads. :)


Laura January 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm

I find that my boys don’t really like to talk about their days. I am eager to hear what happened to them; they want to talk about STAR WARS. As is stereotypically true with men, more abstract conversation holds their attention; discussion of interpersonal matters (stereotypically more female topics) does not.


Tara January 24, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I used to do the old standard, “What was the best and worst part of your day today?” but it didn’t entice either my husband or my daughter to talk at the table. A list like Miriam’s is exactly what I need, but I’ll have to look somewhere else for some questions that would be meaningful to a 4-year-old. Thanks for the tip!


Rebecca January 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm

We share our highs/lows every night at dinner. It’s normally a good conversation starter, but I’m anxious to see that list of other suggested topics.
PS…We started this a few years ago, and I’m glad to say that even our 13 year old still participates.


Melanie January 25, 2012 at 6:26 am

Here’s one that I’ve used at dinner parties when I find I know neither person on my right or on my left:
If you were stuck on a desert island, what 3 things would you take with you, and why?
Okay, so this has nothing to do with ‘How was your day?’ but you can get your kids thinking and talking about non-botfly topics.
Over New Year’s Eve dinner, we had guests and everyone (kids included) got to say what they wanted to do different or new in the New Year. Really interesting what a 6 year-old has to say if given the chance to think first about what to say…


Adventures In Babywearing January 25, 2012 at 10:31 am

We have that game “Would you rather” and there is a side of the cards that isn’t GROSS (so you can talk about them at dinner) and the kids just crack up over it, and actually some of the things are interesting and they have surprising answers. And then sometimes I just sit back and let them talk and usually something will come up that I never would have thought to prod about… mashed potatoes are a big hit here, too. On the menu tonight!



eila @the full plate blog January 25, 2012 at 10:31 am

I recently started putting a piece of my children’s artwork as our centerpiece. These past few days, it’s been a great conversation starter, and there’s such a sense of pride on their part to see their work front and center at mealtime. Here’s on example:


Kathleen January 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

Try the Kid Talk or Table talk cards. We have them on the table and it is a fun way to talk about something else. Then they seem to want to talk about their day in a more natural – their idea type of way.


Pam@behealthybehappywellness January 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm

There are some great questions (and recipes) in the beautiful book The Family Dinner by Laurie David. This is a book I need to dip into regularly to keep our meals fresh and interesting.

I love the Kid Talk card idea – I’ll be checking those out!


Karen L January 25, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Hey, I was so happy to have read this recently when I had an opportunity to make conversation with my oldest (4) tonight. I asked whether he wanted to talk about his day at school, his skating class, or dinosaurs.
“DINOSAURS!” followed by an earful about meat-eaters, teeth, and more.
Anyway, I think I got credit for actually knowing what would interest him. It was a nice feeling for both of us.


Georgia January 26, 2012 at 5:38 am

I laughed so much reading this. I have 3 boys and my husband is often not home in time for tea with us all and this just sounded like our house. Things that 10 and 7 year old boys like to talk about are often not what I’m interested in. I’ll definately have a look at the conversation starters.


Magen January 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

This is kind of funny because I’ve been thinking about dinner time lately. I get SO irritated when my kids smack their food… unreasonably irritated! So I’ve been trying to just enjoy dinner lately and forget about being the etiquette enforcer. It also helps to tell myself…if they are smacking, they most be really enjoying their food! Right?


SleeplessinSummerville January 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Oh, my friend’s family used to make dinnertime conversation a game. Everyone would make three statements about their day, two of which were true and one of which was false and then everyone would try to guess which statements were not true.


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