While mealtime is often the most chaotic part of our day, I wanted to share a few mealtime conversation starters that have helped to distract our toddler from throwing food at his little bro! Let me paint a picture of our family conversation at mealtime: Ted and I are the only English-speaking adults at are family table. Joey recently turned two, and although he’s non-stop chatting and communicating in Joey language, we aren’t always sure what he’s saying. Does that mean we keep him out of the mealtime conversation? NOPE! In fact I think it’s the conversation Joey hears between Mom and Dad that is helping him articulate more. Or so that’s what I keep telling myself!
Chances are your children [or spouse] have a lot more to say at the dinner table than just answering the age-old question, “how was your day?” or, “what did you do in school today?” Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but here are a few family mealtime conversation starters that were commonly used at my dinner table growing up [and that we are starting to use with Joey—- despite the language barrier!!]. Granted your 13 year-old might think some of these are silly, but my toddler enjoys them!
Food Specific Mealtime Conversation Starters:
- The carrot on your plate is orange. Do you see anything else on your plate that is orange? [This works for any food item and color].
- What foods on the table are [insert shape or smell]? [Joey is just starting to remember shapes].
- How many [insert food item] are on your plate? If you eat one can you count how many you have left?
- What food do you want to eat first? Second? Or third? [I typically use “next” with Joey].
- Do you have a favorite food on the table you’d like to eat more of? Why? [We are still working on expressing the “why” part].
Activity Specific Mealtime Conversation Starters:
- Is there a book you’d like to read together after dinner?
- What is one thing you did today that was really fun?
- Was there anything that happened today that made you sad or upset? [Joey doesn’t quite get this yet unless I prompt the event].
- If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you like to have? Why?
- If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why? [Again, I prompt this one with my toddler].
The goal of sparking a conversation at mealtime is to encourage social interaction between you and your children. While it’s easy to sit and enjoy our meal in peace [which I often want after a long day], I remind myself some of my fondest family memories as a child were at the dinner table. And my hope is the boys feel the same—- even though I’m sure there will come a day when they say, “Mom, can you please stop talking?!?!”