If you think conversation starters for kids are difficult, it’s probably because you’ve asked your kid something like “how was school” only to be met with a shrug and a wall of silence. But when applied correctly, conversation starters can foster deep communication that helps you truly understand your kid. So what are the magic words? What can parents say to get kids talking? There’s only one requirement according to child development experts: Genuine interest.
No conversation starter would hold much weight if it was not backed by real curiosity, and with kids, empty queries are often met with a stone wall. Want to strike up a conversation with kids? “Get them talking about themselves and their interests,” says Nancy Silberman Zwiebach, MS, PD a Certified School Psychologist and Psychotherapist. If your child has taken interest in a particular tv show, or is preoccupied with a book or toy, asking specific questions about that interest is usually enough to get the child talking
But appealing to the child’s interest is not the only way parents can strike up a chat with their child. The time and place where the conversation happens is also important. Allyson Robinson, an International Educator with an MS in Education from John Hopkins suggests keeping it natural. “Anytime you call your child into the room to talk, a wall goes up,” she says. And if you interrupt, they’ll be distracted.
“If you’re cooking dinner, ask your child to come into the kitchen and help you prepare,” Robinson suggests. “Running an errand? Let them know you’d like them to come along for the ride.”
School-Based Conversation Starters for Kids
When starting up conversations that revolve around your child’s education. It usually helps to be transparent. “Sharing with your child how you handled past situations, good or bad, helps them to understand why certain choices should be made,” Robinson says.
It’s helpful to segue into conversations with kids with a similar story of your own. If you want to ask about their teacher you can say something like: “When I was in elementary school, my favorite teacher would always tell us stories about the moon. What do you like about your teacher?” Sharing your own story breaks down the wall and makes kids more comfortable to have difficult conversations they may have previously put off.
“They’ll see that even though you’re their parent, you were once a child,” adds Robinson, so you might appear more understanding of what they are going through.
- Where do you play most at recess?
- What did you make at school today?
- Did anything make you sad today?
- Did anything make you happy today?
- Who is your closest friend at school?
- What do you like about your teacher?
- If you could have a class pet what would it be?
- Who makes you smile the most at school?
- Who gets you the most upset at school?
Interest-Based Conversations Starters for Kids
Although it’s important to ask your kids about school, most children are far more ready to talk about the things they consider far more important to their young lives. “Learn a little about your child ahead of time and if that’s not possible, take cues from what you observe,” advises Holly Nordenberg an accredited Positive Psychologist for Kids and Parenting Coach. A simple, “Hey! I used to have a Nintendo. What are you playing right now?” or “I love Harry Potter too. How do you think the book is going to end?” is a great way to initiate a conversation. Once you deliver the initial prompt, many kids will carry the discussion.
- What is your favorite dinosaur?
- Do you believe in ghosts?
- Do you want to be famous?
- What would you want to be famous for?
- Who is your favorite superhero?
- What is your favorite time of the year?
- What occupation do you think is the coolest?
- What’s the first that you do after you wake up?
- What makes you really happy?
- If you could be a cartoon character, who would you be?
- What do boogers taste like?
- What’s your funniest face? Can you show me?
- If time travel was possible, would you rather go to the past or the future?
- What bugs you?
- What is the worst smell in the world for you?
- What’s the best thing about being a kid?
- What’s the worst thing about being a kid?
- What do you like to spend your allowance on?
- If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Belief-Based Conversation Starters for Kids
“When you do hear something controversial from your kid or need to correct information, it’s best not to come right out and call them wrong,” says Robinson. Asking your child questions that help them see life from a different point of view will teach tolerance: of people, of view points, or of outlooks. Robinson emphasizes, “Provide the tools they need to discover the truth or a wiser way of believing in something.”
Rather than questions that could be answered with a simple yes or no, start up your conversation with leading questions. “Ask about what their friends think or what TikTok or Instagram is saying about the topic,” suggests Robinson. Many times you’d find that your child’s belief system is based off what their friends or favorite social media personalities support.
- What person in history can you imagine yourself to be?
- What do you value the most?
- If you could talk to the whole world for just 15 seconds, what would you say?
- How do you feel about (x)?
- How did (x event) make you feel?
- Is there anything you would like to change about the world?
- What do you think is special about older people?
- Dis you learn something new today, can you share it with me?
- What is your favorite family tradition we have?
- How can you show love to someone without using words?
- What would you do if you were disappointed in (x)?
Having meaningful conversations with your kids will build mutual understanding and trust. And conversation starters like these help you dig deep. But even beyond that, it helps prepare your kid for the world ahead. Kids pick up a lot from adults. Frequent conversations with your kids isn’t just good for your relationship, it also helps them build communication skills that could be pivotal to their social life moving forward.