You want your child to talk to you about anything, but how do you get them to do that exactly? You engage your offspring on topics big and small, and you do so on the regular. But if your attempts to chat up your child are met with radio silence, you might need a leg up on getting your kid to open up. Shake up your approach with one (or more) of these fresh conversation starters for kids below.
Why Conversation Starters Are So Helpful for Kids
When you’re able to strike up a rewarding conversation with your kids, you’re teaching them valuable social skills—like how to do the same with others—while also establishing a dynamic in which they’re more likely to come to you when they’ve really got something on their minds.
To this end, conversation starters are helpful to kids and adults alike as a means of breaking the ice and setting the stage for a meaningful connection. They also really come in handy when you’re trying to get a reluctant kid to talk—namely because they ensure you don’t fall into the dead-end conversation trap in which familiar questions are met with one-word answers and the parent-child chat comes to a screeching halt. (i.e., “How was school today?” “Fine.”)
So, what makes a good conversation starter? In an article for Psychology Today, professor of psychology at UCSD Gail Heyman explains that an effective conversation starter is basically any question that helps parents “better understand the rich network of thoughts and feelings that shape their children’s developing sense of themselves and the world around them.” As such, you’re more likely to achieve the desired result if you ask a question that relates in some way to the child’s experiences or interests. For obvious reasons, it’s advisable to steer clear of questions that lead to one-word responses (like, “did you like your lunch today?” or “do you have a lot of homework?”). Also, Heyman recommends that you avoid questions for which you feel there’s a right or wrong answer, as these are more likely to make your child feel judged—and that’s, well, a non-starter. Of course, the kind of questions you ask will depend on the age of the child, so it’s a good thing that our list of conversation starters has options you can test out on preschoolers, teens and every kid in between.
Some Tips Before You Get Started
Specific questions are better than general ones. Case in point: the poor success rate of the old “how was school?” standby. The problem here isn’t necessarily that your child doesn’t want to talk, it’s just that they draw a blank when confronted with such a general question. Instead, try something like “how was your math test?” Specific questions are a lot easier to answer and a more effective way to jog your kid’s memory about the rest of their day.
Don’t stress if the conversation doesn’t flow freely. Not every conversation starter will trigger the lively discussion you were hoping for, and that’s OK. There’s naturally going to be some trial-and-error when it comes to finding out what types of questions your kid finds most engaging. Plus, there’s always a chance that your child just wasn’t feeling very chatty in that moment (more on that below).
Get the timing right. Even the best conversation starter has the potential to be irritating to a sleepy, hungry or grumpy child. If you’re after meaningful conversation, make sure the conditions are set up for success.
Share something about yourself. It’s a tried-and-true technique for getting teenagers to open up, but this one actually works well for kids of all ages. If you want to get your child to share something about their day, try sharing something about yours. This will help foster connection and open the door for back-and-forth conversation. Think: “I dropped my lunch on the floor today and it made me so angry! Did anything happen to you today that upset you?”
75 Conversation Starters for Kids to Get Them Talking
1. What’s the most interesting dream you’ve ever had?
2. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
3. What’s your favorite thing about your teacher?
4. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
5. What superpower would you not want to have?
6. What’s something you really want to learn how to do?
7. What’s your favorite part of the day?
8. What do you usually play at recess?
9. Do you have any pet peeves?
10. Do you like dinner or breakfast foods better?
11. Who is your best friend and what do you like about that person?
12. Did you learn anything new in school today?
13. If you could wish for three things, what would they be?
14. What’s your favorite holiday?
15. If you were an animal, which one do you think you’d be?
16. What three words do you think describe your personality best?
17. What’s your favorite subject?
18. If you could have any job, what would it be?
19. What’s something that cheers you up when you’re sad?
20. How does it make you feel when you see someone getting picked on?
21. What’s one of your happiest memories?
22. Which school rule do you wish you could get rid of?
23. What do you think is the best part about being a grown-up?
24. What’s the best part about being a kid?
25. What’s the worst part about being a kid?
26. Do you want to be famous?
27. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
28. What’s something you wish you could change about the world?
29. What’s something that really scares you?
30. What’s your favorite cartoon character and why?
31. What’s something that makes you angry?
32. If you could only have five toys, which ones would you choose?
33. What do you think your friends like most about you?
34. What’s your favorite thing about your family?
35. If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would you pick?
36. If our pet could talk, what do you think they would say?
37. Who did you play with at school today?
38. What’s one thing you’re really looking forward to right now?
39. If you had a magic wand, what’s the first thing you’d do with it?
40. What did you have for lunch today?
41. What’s something that made you smile today?
42. If you were a parent, what rules would you have?
43. What’s the most important trait in a friend?
44. Has something ever happened at school that made you really upset? What was it?
45. What’s something that most people you know like, but you don’t?
46. What do you think you’re really good at?
47. Which of your friends is easiest to talk to?
48. Who’s the nicest person you know?
49. What do you think is the best way to deal with a bully?
50. What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?
51. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re alone?
52. What’s your favorite thing to do with your friends?
53. What would you do if one of your best friends was doing something you thought was wrong?
54. What’s something you’re really thankful for?
55. What’s the funniest joke you know?
56. What’s something you feel really strongly about?
57. What do you imagine your life will be like in ten years?
58. Who is someone you’d really like to meet?
59. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
60. What are the top three things on your bucket list?
61. Is there a political or social issue you have a strong opinion on?
62. If someone gave you a million dollars, how would you spend the money?
63. What’s your favorite family memory?
64. What three things would you bring with you to a deserted island?
65. What do you do when you’re bored?
66. What do you worry about most often?
67. How do you show someone you love them?
68. If you could do anything you wanted right now, what would it be?
69. What’s something you wish you were better at?
70. Who’s your favorite musician?
71. What’s something you like to do with your family?
72. If you could only see one color, which one would you choose?
73. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
74. What’s one thing you did to help someone recently?
75. What’s your least favorite chore?