As you work through the steps to start having regular family interaction, always keep in mind one of the most important reasons is so that your kids to know a different side of you other than the authority figure. You need for them to learn that you are human and can be fun to be with. That way, if problems occur, they will be completely comfortable talking with you. About ANYTHING.
There is one rule that has no exceptions. At no time – not ever – should you scold or reprimand anyone at the family meal or during any family activity. Save that for another day. Even if one of your kids has done something wrong at school or other time. Family meals and family interactive activities should ALWAYS be a safe haven.
As a bonus, YOU will also have fun. It is fun to be a kid again.
If your family already has great interaction with each other, you will not need the suggestions below to get everyone talking. You probably already do that. However, if conversation stalls whenever you meet, you may find some of the suggestions below helpful.
Be Prepared: Assemble a list of open ended questions and conversation starters in case you end up with bored-looking kids. When you get their wheels turning, you may have to actually ask for one of them to a scribe.
- Always ask open ended questions rather than those that can be answered with “yes”, “no”, or “okay”.
- You want your kids to WANT to participate. Therefore, avoid topics that could lead to distasteful discussions. This time needs to be fun and have lots of laughing.
- Everyone will be more apt to actively participate / contribute when they know you will use their ideas.
- You can create a template or just make notes to get everyone thinking about foods and activities they would like. Usually when you give examples, people think about other things.
- Put their responses in a jar or container.
More conversation starters are at the end of this page
Make It Fun! Get Involvement
Prepare for your first family meal. Find a way to encourage your kids to make suggestions about things they would like to do. One way is to use a form to get everyone (parents included) brainstorming and mindmapping. List some ideas that you have or find on the form. Usually, that makes people think of other things and that starts everyone making suggestions. Be ready to accept anything that they propose. Your goal is to find ways to make them look forward to family involvement. They must know that their ideas are really important. If it seems too difficult, let them know that you love their idea and we just need to find ways to make that happen.
If there is a budget limit to any suggestion they make, put that on the form so everyone knows. Tell them that if they can find ways to make their suggestion work and stay within budget, you will use their suggestions:
- The cost must be no more than $xxx
- It has to be legal
- It has to be safe for everyone
- Every member of the family must be included in their suggestion
- Their suggestion can include one friend (for Family & Friend events)
Some suggestions for family activities:
- American Alliance of Museums
- Bake homemade bread. Eat it right out of the oven with homemade butter. If you are not a baker, you can buy frozen loaves of bread and just let it thaw, rise, and bake it.
- Bird-watching sites near you
- Check your local town’s community calendar
- Conduct science experiments at home: Science Bob, Science Kids, BuzzFeed, Science Buddies, IFL Science
- Events Near Here
- Family fun ideas
- Find a zoo or aquarium near you
- Find planetariums near you
- Free workshops at Home Depot
- Bowling, roller skating, or ice skating
- Go on a picnic
- Sledding or tobogganing
- A Concert in the Park: many places offer free concerts during the summer months
- Learn Geocaching. Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
- Make a kite and fly it
- Make homemade ice cream
- MapMuse Places of Interest
- Nature centers near where you live
- Play Card Games
- Put together a jigsaw puzzle
- Visit and learn about places in your neighborhood (fire station, police station, post office, dairy, etc.)
- Water Balloon Fights
- Wildlife refuge near you
Pick 5 Items: Everyone is asked to pick any 5 items from around home and list the 5 items on paper. Any 5 items: pictures, a table, sofa, television, paper clips – anything at all. When everyone has written down their 5 items, hand the papers to you. Mix up the papers and randomly select one and that person has to make up a story to tell using their 5 items. The results can end up being hilarious!
- My granddaughter and I had a ball doing this. I only had in mind to pick 5 items and then make up a silly story. SHE asked if we could record it and then she wanted to add background music and record it. We spent the better part of a day just laughing and giggling.
Granelda: My sister and I had a gag that lasted for several years, even after I had moved from New York to California. This was “Granelda”. She started out with a can of yams from one Christmas when I was on leave and at home; the can of yams appeared in every picture. I suspect that my sister was the culprit who put that stupid can of yams in every photo. However, the result was. . . .
When I got back home, in California, I discovered that my sister had packed that can of in my luggage! The next time I “went home” to visit, I stashed that same can of yams in one of her dog crates (she had a dog kennel). I never thought about it again until I suddenly got a package in the mail from her. The contents? You got it: That stupid can of yams! I “went home” again the following summer and learned that they were going to have a yard sale and many items were stored in their barn. So, I hid the can in one of the boxes that were for their yard sale. Back home, in California again, I got another package from my sister. This time, I got a box in the form of a casket with RIP on top. When I opened the box, there was an epitaph inside. The can of yam burst from the heat (and all the back and forth I suspect). Not to be outdone, I bought a real yam and – – well – you can see the results. I sent a note that Granelda had been reincarnated!
So, as you can see, sometimes things that you do at home with your kids right now just might take on a life of its own and last for years.
Phase 4: Quick and Easy Meal Suggestions will be published on 8/10/2017
- Tell me something that made you laugh
- Who did you encourage today? How?
- If you had a ‘do-over’ button, which part of your day would you press it on? Why?
- Name something you are proud of
- If you could be any teacher in your school, which one would you be? Why?
- If today had a color, what would it be? Why?
- What do you look forward to next week/weekend/month?
- Name something you’re good at now that you weren’t last year. What makes it easier?
- What’s one thing you’d like to learn to do someday?
- What’s one thing I could do for you or say to you that would make you feel good?
- Who do you admire in your class? What do you like about them?
- Tell me about one thing you learned today. What makes it interesting?
- What do you hope to do tomorrow?
- What part of your day do you wish lasted longer?
- What don’t most people at school know about you?
- I bet you can’t make me laugh! Do you know any funny jokes?
- If you were in a circus, what would your job be?
- If you were a vegetable, what type of vegetable would you be?
- Tell me about something that made you laugh this week.
- What are some things that you shouldn’t say when receiving a gift?
- What’s the worst thing you can say on a first date?
- What would you do if [you won the lottery/lost your phone/etc.]?
- Tell me about your relationship with your family.
- What are some things that make you [laugh/smile/happy]?
- How do you like to celebrate [your birthday/Christmas/New Year’s Eve]?
- What do you like the most about your [job/school/family]
- What’s the most challenging thing about your [life/job/school] right now?
- What is your favorite toy [electronic device, etc.]? Why?
- What is your favorite movie? Why?
- What kind of music do you like to listen to? Why?
- Who is your favorite superhero? Why?
- Would you rather eat chips or candy? Why?
- Would you rather have fries or cookies? Why?
- Would you rather eat pizza or hot dogs? Why?
- Would you rather stay at your current age or be 10 years older? Why?
- Would you rather be super strong or super-fast? Why?
- Would you rather be really tall or really short? Why?
- Would you rather have the ability to fly or to be invisible? Why?
- Would you rather help set the table before dinner or help clean up after dinner? Why?
- Would you rather stay up late or get up early? Why?
- Would you rather be outside all day or inside all day? Why?
- What is your favorite class? Why?
- Who is your favorite teacher? Why?
- What is your least favorite class? Why?
- Who do you eat lunch with? Why?
- Do you like going to school? Why? Or Why Not?
- What is the hardest thing in life for you right now? Why?
- Who is your best friend? Why?
- What is the worst part of your day? Why?
- What is the best part of your day? Why?
- What’s the best thing about being a teen? Why?
- What’s the worst thing about being a teen? Why?
- What do you plan on doing after you graduate? Where would that be located?
- What do you think your life will look like 10 years from now?
- What is something about yourself that you hope will not change in the future?
- What would a perfect day look like to you?
- What is the last thing that you bought? Do you still have it? Do you still like it?
- What do you look for in a girlfriend/boyfriend?
- What do you like to do on the weekends?
- At what age would you like to live on your own? What will you do? Where will you live?
- What is your favorite food? Why?
- What is your favorite dessert? Why?
- What 3 things do you do when you’re bored?
- What did you like the most on your last vacation?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
- If you wrote a book, what would you name the main character and where would he go?
- What is your favorite thing to do? Why?
- If you could design a t-shirt, how would you like design one?
- What’s the funniest thing you saw today/this week?
- If we had an airplane to take us on vacation, where would you want to go? Why?
- If you could have any animal as a pet, where would you go to get it and what would it be?
- If you could do something just like your friend (use name of friend) what would you do?
- If you could do something like your Dad/Mom do, what would you want to be able to do?
- If you could change anything about school what would it be?
- If you could change anything about our family what would it be?
- If you could change anything in the world, what would you change and how?
- Who is your favorite tv/book/story character and what do you like about him/her?
- If you could eat lunch with (insert favorite character’s name) where would you go and what would you eat together?
- If you could wake up tomorrow with a superpower, what would you want to have?
- If you could have any 3 wishes granted, what would they be?
- If you could change the lunch menu at (school/home) what would you change?
- What is your biggest dream?
- What is your biggest worry?
- If you could change your name, would you want to? What name would you choose?
- What are you proudest of in your life?
- Where is your favorite place to be?
- What is something you never thought you could tell me but maybe want to tell me now?
Resources for Conversation Starters