Monday, August 19, 2013

Dinner Conversation

Last night, as I was putting the Rutabaga to bed and he said to me, "Mommy, we didn't do our question at dinner." It made me smile that we had been practicing a ritual long enough that he would notice its absence.

Over the past couple months, I've been thinking about our conversation around the dinner table. Sure there's the usual nightly chatter about logistics and planning, but I've been thinking about what kinds of questions will engage a 3 year old in conversation. "How was your day?" at this age already usually generates a one-word response. For awhile we used a variation, "Did <insert friend's name> do anything silly today?" This would usually result in Rutabaga making some kind of funny face with accompanying sound and then repeating the same face and sound for any other friend's name I asked. Those responses were entertaining, but I was looking for something a little different.

Now our nightly question is: "What is something that made you happy today?"

I like the positive spin on it. Reflect and find something about your day for which you are grateful and/or that made you smile today. Everyone can usually come up with at least one thing, and it encourages the habit of finding at least one thing. Over time we've learned more about the Husband's experiments. We always hear about my farmer's market finds. The Rutabaga often comes up with very sweet things, like the thing that's made him happy is "right now".

It's not perfect. Sometimes the Rutabaga is too distracted by our dinner company to answer. Sometimes it generates quick responses and doesn't lead into full conversation, but at this point I'm ok with just practicing the habit.

Locally, in Watertown Mass, there's an organization called The Family Dinner Project. They are affiliated with the Public Conversations Project. Here were a couple ideas from their resources that seemed like they might work with a preschooler:

  • In this one you come up with a fact and then ask whether it is true for Family Member A or Family Member B. It seems a fun way to share family stories without being wonky.
  • For this one you pick would-you-rather scenarios. Would you rather swim in a pool of Jello or chocolate pudding?
I'm going to try one of these soon. In the meantime, working on this blog made me happy today. What works to get conversation started at your dinner table?

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