Have you ever wondered what your child thinks about at the end of a long day? Or perhaps you’ve tried to get your child talking, but they just aren’t into it? This page will address different ways you can start a conversation in a way that creates meaningful connections.
What are conversation starters and why are they necessary?
Conversation starters are different questions you can use to help your kids open up. When you are able to have meaningful conversations, you are also helping your children feel connected and supported by their family. Conversation skills are important because they help kids learn empathy, social skills, and confidence in their everyday life.
When you try using a conversation starter, it is important for you to consider what is going on in your child’s world that day. Later in this article, we will address three different developmental stages, and how you can formulate developmentally appropriate questions.
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10 psychology-based conversation starters for kids
Psychology teaches us that children are constantly observing the world around them. This means that your response to their answers is just as important as the question you asked. The conversation as a whole should aim to help build trust, increase connection, and teach your kids how to have open communication.
As you consider what type of questions to use, try to begin the conversation with an open question. Closed questions result in one word answers, whereas open questions encourage kids to have longer responses. Here are some examples of how to use conversation starters to create a meaningful conversation.
1) Tell me about your favorite song.
When you ask your child to talk about music, they are sharing about something they have an emotional connection with. Because of this, conversations about music can help you develop meaningful connections with your child.
2) What’s your favorite joke?
Sharing jokes is a great way for your child to develop humor. If your child makes up their own joke, it can also exercise their imagination. Laughing at your child’s joke will help them feel more confident in their social skills.
3) Who’s your favorite superhero?
Superheroes often symbolize values that children admire. Having a conversation about superheroes can be a way of helping your kids identify traits they would like to develop in themselves.
4) What’s your favorite subject in school?
This conversation will help your child identify their strengths and what they like to do. When parents respond in an accepting way towards children’s passions, you are teaching them that they can trust you.
5) What do you like about the other kids at school?
This question can help your child develop empathy and appreciation for others. By identifying strengths in others, you are helping your child learn to value other relationships.
6) If we had to go out and you could only bring one toy, which one would you take with you?
This conversation will help you learn what is important to your child. If you know which toys are important to them, you can build trust by remembering that special toy when they need comfort for something later.
7) What is the best thing that happened to you during your entire day?
This conversation will help your child express gratitude. Having this conversation on a routine basis will also help them learn ways to naturally have open conversations about their day to day experiences.
8) What was hard about your day today?
Talking about the hard parts of life is just as important as highlighting the positives. This conversation will help your child learn that they can come to you when something is wrong.
9) What is your favorite day in the entire year?
This is another conversation that builds trust and teaches your kids that you value what matters to them. When you know the answer to this question, you can be sure to create a meaningful family moment on their favorite day.
10) What do you like about your sibling?
This conversation teaches kids to value their siblings, which can improve family relationships. This is especially helpful if your family is experiencing sibling rivalry. Fostering gratitude for one another can also increase a sense of belonging and connection.
Conversation starters for kids (ages 2-5)
Kids in this age group are imaginative and playful. They are just starting to explore what kind of things they like or dislike. Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson suggested that kids under the age of five are learning how to trust, be autonomous, and take initiative. From a cognitive perspective, Jean Piaget suggested that children in this stage of development are naturally focused on themselves, have limited language skills, and are not able to understand logic yet.
Considering the wisdom from Erikson and Piaget, this can help us understand the mindset of a child between ages 2-5. It can be helpful to use a conversation starter that explores your child’s inner world. You can help build trust by having a stance where there is no wrong answer. Be silly and playful, accepting whatever answer they came up with. Keep the questions simple and fun!
- What’s your favorite dinosaur?
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
- What kind of superhero name would you give yourself?
- What’s your favorite TV show?
- What’s your favorite cartoon character?
- What’s your favorite toy? What’s your favorite game to play with it?
- What’s your favorite color?
- What’s the funniest face you can make?
- What helps you fall asleep before bed?
- What do you want to do when you’re all grown up?
Conversation starters for kids (ages 6-12)
Kids in this age group have a curious mindset, and want to figure out how things work. Erikson suggested that children are focused on mastering skills during this life stage. Piaget’s perspective of cognitive development says that these kids are learning how to problem solve, and are able to understand hypothetical issues.
Based on these theories of child development, a good conversation starter for this age group would focus on helping your child feel capable of understanding and solving problems. It is also okay to keep asking some questions about what they like or dislike, especially since they are navigating new situations as they enter and exit different schools!
- If someone gave you a million dollars, how would you spend it?
- If you were stranded on a deserted island, but you could have three things with you, what would you bring?
- If you got to be in charge of planning dinner tonight, what food would you bring to the dinner table? Would you go to your favorite restaurant, or would you cook it at home?
- If you had to eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
- Let’s say your school decided to let your teacher get a class pet. What would be a fair way for everyone to take turns bringing the class pet home?
- What was your favorite thing that you did at school today?
- What is your favorite school subject? What do you like about it?
- What is your favorite holiday?
- What is the most embarrassing moment you’ve ever experienced?
- What is your favorite thing about your best friend?
Conversation starters for kids (ages 13-17)
Adolescents are at a stage in life where they are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be like. Erikson suggested that the main focus during teenage years is on identity development. Piaget’s cognitive development theory suggested that teenagers are capable of creating a hypothesis, understanding long-term consequences, and think abstractly.
Teenagers are trying to figure out their friend circles, and whether or not their best friends are actually the kind of people they want in their life. Considering the mindset of a teenager, try offering meaningful conversations that help them develop a sense of identity and belonging.
- After you graduate high school, what do you think your dream job would be?
- What is your favorite family tradition? Would you like to add or change anything to our traditions?
- What inspires you about your favorite teacher?
- If you could change something about the world, what would you do?
- If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would you want to be for a day?
- What are three words to describe the kind of person you want to be?
- What is one thing you can do to make someone smile today?
- Tell me about what’s been stressing you out at school lately.
- Who is the nicest person you’ve ever met? What did they do?
- What kind of qualities make a good friend?
Some recommendations to consider before starting the conversation
Before you begin the conversation, consider the following recommendations, which will help you really be present to listen carefully and understand your child’s thoughts.
Consider your child’s mindset from a holistic perspective
Most children are involved in a number of different environments that impact how they are doing that day: school, home, the neighborhood, and any activities or other communities they may be involved in. All of these variables impact mood, behavior, thoughts, and relationships. If they aren’t engaging in the conversation, asking specific questions about what their experiences are like in these various communities might help you have more understanding of what your child is experiencing.
Consider the timing of starting a conversation with your child
If they are too tired, hungry, or distracted then they aren’t going to be able to focus on the conversation. If it seems like they have something else on their mind, ask them about that instead.
Avoid pushing the conversation agenda
While these conversation starters are meant to be helpful, sometimes kids just want to talk about something else, or they might not be in the mood for it. What’s important is for your kids to know you are there for them when they do want to talk about something.
Fostering open communication from an early age can pay off in later years
Having meaningful conversation is an important way to build healthy connections with your kids. Doing so helps to strengthen family bonds. When you are able to foster trust and open communication, your kids are more likely to have a meaningful relationship with you later in life.