Home Youth Leaders Free Resources for Youth Leaders Use These Family Dinner Questions to Engage With Kids During Meals

Use These Family Dinner Questions to Engage With Kids During Meals

family dinner questions

The quality of family dinner conversations is a great litmus test for relational health. I’m a big believer in prioritizing meals together and aiming for engaging, fun discussions that involve everyone. That said, only every now and then did conversation flow freely and naturally around our family’s own table. Asking our five kids the same questions—“So how was your day? What did you learn? Did you do anything interesting?”—made their eyes glaze over in boredom. Drawing out meaningful answers to these generic family dinner questions was akin to squeezing blood from a rock.

A few years ago, however, we discovered something that gets all our kids verbally sparked up. Even my wife and I are chomping at the bit to talk. In fact, many times we struggle to get our kids to stop talking. Honest!

So what do we do? We each draw from a jar of 250 paper slips, each containing a question. Some of these questions come from Facebook friends (I posted once, asking for their best ideas), some are my own, and most are from hard-to-find nooks and crannies in cyberspace.

Here’s my gift to your family or youth group: You can have my family dinner questions! Download them at www.bit.ly/DadDudeQuestions, print on paper or cardboard, and cut them out individually. You’re welcome! They’re sure to liven up your meals and make them memorable for more than just the food.

Follow these 9 tips to maximize family dinner questions:

1. Put them in a jar.

Have each person randomly select one slip. Then go around in a circle, with each person reading and answering. If time allows, repeat the process.

2. Other options include using an electronic or printed-out list.

When it’s their turn, ask people to randomly choose any number from 1 to 250. Then you can refer to the list and tell them what their question is.

3. If you don’t want everyone to answer different questions, select a question or two that everyone must answer.

Then use it more as a conversation starter, allowing discussion to flow wherever it may from there.

4. Let people eat first.

In my house, when everyone is starving and the food is awesome, we let everyone focus on the food before pulling out questions. Other times, we dive into questions pretty early in the meal. Gauge each situation on its own.

5. For littler kids, simplify the process.

If your children can’t read yet, read the questions aloud for them. If the level of comprehension is too high, then make the question more age-appropriate. For our 2 year olds, we merely let the question give us an idea of a question to ask. Instead of “What made your heart happy today?” for example, we ask, “Are you happy or sad?”

6. If someone gives short answers, be sure to follow up.

Ask the person to please tell you more, and show lots of interest and curiosity. Responding with “Why?” is the most important tip for using family dinner questions!

7. Use this process to teach kids (and your spouse!) the discipline of listening.

Say, “God’s given us two clues how much listening you need to do compared to talking. When it’s just you and another, the first clue is how many ears you have to mouths. Two ears, one mouth means you listen twice as much as you talk. When it’s a mealtime, the clue is how many people are at the table.” For example, I tell our kids, “Seven of us are sitting here, which means we must each listen seven times as much as we speak.”

8. When you have guests over for dinner, pull out the questions.

We say, “At this table, you get to join our family’s life. So grab one question from this jar.” Guests are always blown away by the experience and eager to join the discussions.

9. Share this post!

Spread the conversational revolution, because families talking together every day (and loving it) is as endangered as the rhino. Recently I spoke to a primary school of 1,000+ students and told them about our family dinner questions and how we sit together and talk after eating. I held up our jar of 250 questions to show what gets us talking. I explained that just as eating good food at the table makes your body stronger, so talking at the table makes your family stronger. Since then, I’ve been amazed by feedback from parents: “My goodness, my kids don’t want to leave the table. They want to talk. Night after night. Who ever imagined?”

The 250 questions.

  1. Which famous person would you like to invite to dinner?
  1. If you could have any super power what would it be?
  1. Share a high of the day, low of the day, and something interesting that happened in between.
  1. If you could make friends with one person who you aren't already friends with, who would it be?
  1. If you were an animal, what kind of animal do you think you would be?
  1. If you have a 1000 (of your currency) you have to use to help someone not in our family, how would you spend it?
  1. What is one thing that you would love to learn to do?
  1. Where is your favorite place and why?
  1. If you could do something you did today a little differently, what would it be?
  1. What made your heart happy today?
  1. What colour was your day? Why?
  1. Would you rather live in space or under the sea?
  1. Would you rather have feet for hands or hands for feet?
  1. If you could put your day into a dance, what would it look like? (Show us)
  1. If you could compare your day to an animal, what animal would it be?
  1. Did you help someone else today? If so, who?
  1. What happened today that made you mad? Or glad? Or sad? (Pick just one)
  1. If you could change something that happened today, what would it be?
  1. What do you know how to do that you can teach to others?
  2. If you could be a sound, what would it be?
  3. If you could choose a new name for yourself, what would it be?
  4. What dream(s) do you have for your future?
  5. Tell us one thing you don’t like that much about this family.
  1. Tell us one thing you like best about this family.
  2. Tell us the one thing you like most about being you.
  3. If you could keep your room any way you wanted, how would it look?
  4. If you were going to have a weird, unusual pet, what would it be?
  5. What is the grossest thing you can think of?
  6. What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
  7. Who do you think you are most like in our family?
  1. What's the most daring thing you remember doing?
  1. Name one thing you love about the person on your right? And your left?
  1. Who was the happiest person you saw or spoke to today?
  1. Anyone you see today who looked sad - is there anything you can do to change how they're feeling tomorrow?
  1. If you could swap the sounds two different animals make, what would they be?
  1. What is something you don't think you're that good at that could somehow be a blessing in disguise?
  1. What scares you?
  1. What would you like to do this weekend as a family?
  1. What is one skill/talent you would like to try and learn?
  1. What was your rose (the best part) and your thorn (the worst part) today?
  1. What was your peak (the best part) and your pit (the worst part) today?
  1. Would you rather be ugly and wise or great-looking and foolish?
  1. Would you rather get everything you want now or work hard for it before getting it?
  1. What are you most grateful for today?
  1. What one aspect of your life do you wish could be better?
  1. Your spaceship lands on a new planet. What are three things you’d tell the aliens about the planet you come from?
  1. If our family invented a holiday, what would it be called and how would we celebrate it?
  1. If you could walk into any book or story, which would it be and what would you do?
  1. If you could get a thousand people to do one thing with you, what would it be?
  1. What’s your most prized possession?
  1. How would the world be different if cats and dogs could fly?
  1. If you could make up two new rules for our family, what would they be?
  1. Imagine you could replace any part of your body with part of an animal. Which would you choose?
  1. If you could invent any machine, what would it do and what would you use it for?
  1. If you could ask God a question, what would it be?
  1. What’s your favorite silly face to make? And silly sound?
  1. If you joined the circus, what would your circus act be?
  1. What’s your favorite fun thing to do at break-time in work/school?
  1. What’s your favorite fun thing to do on weekends?
  1. What’s your favorite fun thing to do at home during the week?
  1. If you were a teacher and could teach your students anything at all, what would you teach them?
  1. What do you like most about school/work so far?
  1. What is your favorite hot-weather food to eat?
  1. If you were free to do anything you wanted all day, what would you do?
  1. What do you think about rules? Do you think they’re important? What are some rules you have in your home or at school/work?
  1. If you could change one thing about your work/school, what would it be?
  1. In the book Green Eggs and Ham, Sam-I-am refuses to try green eggs and ham. Then he does and he likes them. Has something similar ever happened to you?
  1. If you were a season, which season would you be?
  1. What do you like to do when it’s freezing cold outside?
  1. What makes you feel loved?
  1. Name 3 people you love most in the world, and why (animals are OK too).
  1. Name one body or personality trait you got from your mom.
  1. Name one body or personality trait you got from your dad.
  1. Have you ever been teased by a friend? How did it make you feel? How do you think a friend feels when he or she gets teased?
  1. Talk about something nice or helpful someone did for you this week. How did it make you feel?
  1. What one thing do you do now that you need an adult for but would like to try to do all by yourself?
  1. “A person’s a person no matter how small…” writes Dr. Seuss in "Horton Hears a Who". What do you think he means by that?
  1. What does it mean to be compassionate? How is this different than just being “nice”?
  1. Have you ever had a fight with a friend or sibling? How did you make peace?
  1. What are the qualities of a bad friend?
  1. Do you have a best friend? Who?
  1. How do you know when you can trust another person?
  1. Do you like it when other people share with you? Why?
  1. What is one thing you did today that helped other people?
  1. What is one way that you take care of yourself?
  1. If you are sick or sad, what can someone do to care for you?
  1. What was one caring thing that somebody sitting at the table has done for you in the last few days?
  1. What can you give or do for someone that doesn’t cost any money?
  1. What is something you own and love that you would like to share with someone else?
  1. What was the best gift you ever received?
  1. What is your favorite thing to share with friends? What is the hardest thing to share?
  1. Tell us your favorite story about our family.
  1. Do you know any stories about your grandparents when they were kids? Share one.
  1. What is it like to be a kid? What is it like to be a parent?
  1. Who is the funniest person you know?
  1. Who did you play or have fun with today?
  1. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?
  1. Would you rather speak every language in the world or play every instrument?
  1. Would you rather live in the future or in the past?
  1. Would you rather be the best player on a losing team or the worst player in a winning team?
  1. Would you rather live in the city or the country?
  1. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences they had during their childhoods?
  1. Do you know how your name was chosen?
  1. Do you know the story about how your parents met?
  1. What is your earliest memory?
  1. What traits about your mom or dad would you like to have more of?
  1. What are some things other people do that cheer you up when you’re down?
  1. What would you say to someone who wanted to give up on a task you knew they could finish?
  1. What do you enjoy about being a girl/guy? And not enjoy?
  1. Are you a quick starter or a procrastinator? (Ask someone what this means)
  1. Do you give up or endure when you’re working on something hard?
  1. What would motivate you to try new foods or activities?
  1. What were you excited about when you got out of bed this morning?
  1. What would your perfect day be like? Where would you go? Who would be with you?
  1. If you woke up tomorrow and could do one thing that you can’t do right now, what would it be?
  1. What was your last thought before going to sleep last night?
  1. What do you think the world will be like 100 years from now?
  1. How many kids do you think you will have one day? Boys or girls?
  1. Why do you think it’s important to not give up on something right away?
  1. Have you ever had trouble doing something at first, but kept at it until you figured it out? What was it?
  1. What’s one fun thing you hope to do in the next year?
  1. If rain could fall in any flavor you choose, what flavor would it be?
  1. If you had a pet dragon, what would you name it? What would you do together?
  1. If your pet could talk, what do you think s/he might say?
  1. If you were king or queen of the world, what would you do?
  1. If you had an extra room in your house, what would you use it for?
  1. If you traveled to space, what would you miss from Earth?
  1. Would you ever travel into space? Where would you go?
  1. If you had 3 wishes, what would they be? (And you can’t wish for more wishes!)
  1. If you could be an animal, what would you want to be?
  1. If you did the grocery shopping, what would you buy?
  1. How old do kids need to be before you think it’s ok to have a Facebook account?
  1. How do you feel about bugs?
  1. Would you rather be very tall or very short?
  1. What is your favorite game to play with the family?
  1. Do you think it’s more fun to be a parent or a child?
  1. What special talent(s) do you have?
  1. What does your teacher (or boss or work colleague) do really well?
  1. Would you rather always have to enter rooms backwards or always have to somersault out?
  1. Would you rather always have the same song stuck in your head or always have the same dream at night?
  1. What is your favorite food? Your least favorite?
  1. In the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Alexander has a bad day. When last did you have a terrible day?
  1. What is one thing you enjoy being responsible for?
  1. What are 3 things you have to do every day, whether you like it or not?
  1. When you are really upset, what helps calm you down?
  1. What is your favorite place in the world to sit quietly?
  1. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
  1. What do you do each day to recharge after a long day? How often do you get to do this?
  1. Tell us a story about something that happened today at work/school and another story that you made up about something that happened. We’ll try guess which is which.
  1. Do you know how much your family loves you? How can you tell?
  1. What would you do if you saw someone being treated unfairly?
  1. What are the qualities of a good friend?
  1. What do you think makes a person popular?
  1. Would you rather do the wrong thing but people like you, or do the right thing but then people didn’t.
  1. Who did you sit with at lunch today?
  1. In The Lorax, Dr Seuss writes “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  What do you care about a lot?
  1. What did you do today that you are proud of doing?
  1. What does it mean to be brave?
  1. Would you rather own your own boat or your own plane?
  1. Would you rather sweat melted cheese or always smell like a skunk?
  1. Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
  1. What are you looking forward to about next year?
  1. What do you want to be when you grow up or when you're older?
  1. Has a prayer you have prayed or a wish you made ever come true? What was it?
  1. Have you ever had a recurring dream (one that you have over and over again)?
  1. If people count sheep to get to sleep, what do sheep count?
  1. If you could have any zoo animal as a pet, what animal would you pick?
  1. If you could choose another name for yourself, would you? What name would you choose?
  1. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would you choose?
  1. If you had three cookies and five friends, what would you do to make it fair for everybody?
  1. Make up three silly new traditions for our family. What would they be?
  1. What’s the funniest or strangest thing that happened to you today?
  1. In the famous “Marshmallow Study” children were presented with one marshmallow, which they could either eat immediately or not eat for 15 minutes in order to get more. What do you think you would do?
  1. Would you rather win an Academy Award or an Olympic Gold Medal?
  1. Would you rather shoot spaghetti out of your fingers or sneeze meatballs?
  1. Would you rather have a unicorn horn or a squirrel tail?
  1. All of us lose our patience sometimes. Think of a recent time you lost yours. What happened?
  1. Who is the most patient person you know? How can you tell they are patient?
  1. Choose a situation from a book or a movie that you would like to find yourself in, such as visiting Narnia, playing Quidditch at Hogwarts or ___.
  1. Have you ever volunteered to help? What did you do? Did you enjoy it?
  1. Would you rather live without a phone or a television?
  1. Would you rather be a rabbit or a horse?
  1. Would you rather be fabulously famous and poor or unknown and rich?
  1. Have you and your friend ever left someone out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying?
  1. If you were principal of your school / boss of your company, would you change anything? What?
  1. If you were a teacher and could teach your students anything at all, what would you teach them?
  1. Do you think you have too much freedom, or not enough?
  1. Do you feel free to be yourself?
  1. Talk about a person you admire, famous or otherwise, who has fought or fights for the freedom of others.
  1. Do you pray lots, little or not at all? What was your last prayer?
  1. In the movie Groundhog Day, the character keeps living the same day over and over again. Describe a day you’d like to live over and over again.
  1. Do you find it easy to say I love you, or hard? Are there times when it’s harder than others?
  1. Have you ever participated in a tradition from a culture other than your own? What was it? How did you like it?
  1. When is it especially important to say ‘thank you?’ Do you notice when people thank you, or forget to thank you?
  1. Do you prefer to read or to hear?
  1. Do you prefer to listen or to speak?
  1. What makes you a good friend?
  1. What makes you a good brother or sister? And something you can do better?
  1. What makes you a good child or parent? And something you can do better?
  1. Have you ever had to end a friendship? How did you know it had to end?
  1. What is the wildest dream you have for your life? What practical next steps would you have to take to reach it?
  2. Tell us something about you that you think we might not know.
  1. Who is the one person you trust the most?
  1. If a friend asks you to keep a secret that you don’t feel comfortable keeping, what would you do?
  1. Is it always a good thing to be loyal? When might it not be?
  1. What would you do if you saw your friend being bullied? What about if you saw a stranger being bullied?
  1. What 3 words would you use to describe our family?
  1. Think about someone your family knows who could use a pick-me-up or a helping hand. Who is it and what could you do for him/her?
  1. If you had to give everyone in the family new names, what would those names be?
  1. Would you rather work in a group or by yourself?
  1. Do you prefer to work in silence or with background noise like music?
  1. Tell a story about a time you were really embarrassed.
  1. Has anyone ever asked you to do something you believed was wrong? What did you do?
  1. What 2 or 3 jobs can you imagine yourself one day doing?
  1. Why do you think bad things happen to so many good people?
  1. Why do you think good things happen to so many bad people?
  1. Would you rather raise chickens for eggs or sheep for wool?
  1. Would you rather have a head twice as big or half as small?
  1. Would you rather be totally covered in hair head to toe, or completely bald?
  1. When you do something nice for someone else, how does it make you feel?
  1. What one thing would you change about the world if you had the power to do so?
  1. Finish this sentence: “Someday, I’m going to be the first person in the world to…”
  1. Do you get more energy from being alone or with people?
  1. In the Spiderman series, Uncle Ben says “With great power comes great responsibility.” What power do you have? What great responsibility comes with it?
  1. When people grow up, they are almost always responsible for something. What do you want to be responsible for when you grow up/get older?
  2. What will be different in the year 2050? What will be the same?
  1. Finish this sentence: “I wish the world…”
  1. What fear would you like to overcome?
  1. Where do you think you will live when you grow up/get older?
  1. What qualities about your mom or dad do you hope to have when you’re older?
  1. If you never had to work for money, what would you want to do as an adult?
  1. If you were a utensil, which would you be?
  1. If you founded a new country, what would you call it? What would the flag look like?
  1. If you could stay up all night, what would you do?
  1. Imagine you’re leading a crew into space. What qualities do you think would make a good leader?
  1. Which friends would you want to get accidentally locked in school/work with overnight? What would you do?
  1. Would you rather take a holiday on an exotic island or in a romantic city?
  1. Would you rather have to eat a bowl full of crickets or a bowl full of worms?
  1. Would you rather lose your sense of taste or your sense of smell?
  1. If you could build your own school, what would the kids do all day?
  1. What is one thing you’re now good at doing that took a lot of hard work and practice?
  1. What was the biggest surprise you have had this year?
  1. During what part of your day do you feel most anxious and rushed? How could we change that?
  1. Do you think your name suits you?
  1. What personality trait has gotten you into the most trouble?
  2. What is the hardest thing about being # (your age) years old?
  1. What is the best thing about being # (your age) years old?
  1. Would you rather be good looking, smart, or athletic?
  1. Would you rather walk the Great Wall of China or along the Amazon River?

This article originally appeared here.

Terran Williams, who writes at www.thedaddude.com, is a church leader, a dad of five, an avid surfer, and the author of What’s So Amazing About Scripture? How to Read It Right and Tap Into Its Power. Visit his website at www.terranwilliams.com.

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Thanks to Terran Williams writer of www.thedaddude.com who is also an avid surfer, church leader, dad of five and author of “What’s So Amazing About Scripture? How To Read It Right and Tap Into Its Power” - see www.terranwilliams.com.