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Use Open Ended Questions to Start Dinner Conversation

Updated on July 8, 2011

Using open ended questions for children is a great way to get them talking at the dinner table. If you want to have interesting conversations with your kids, ask open-ended questions. Instead of getting the standard yes or no answer from your kids, you can get a lot more information with open ended questions. Examples can be found online or with prepackaged sets of questions such as Table Topics, found at specialty boutique stores or online. Having a good supply of open ended questions to ask children can go a long way toward opening up long term, meaningful communication between adults and children.

If you start this practice at the dinner table when they're little, you'll be ready to face the challenges later when your children become teenagers.

Tools for Using Open-Ended Questions

In our family we use Table Topics at the dinner table to get the kids talking about their day. Using a structured open-ended question is also helpful because to the kids, it’s not coming from Mom and Dad, it’s coming from the box.

We started this practice after I read and used the book Once a Month cooking, which has a list of dinner table questions in the back. The kids have gotten so used to this mealtime ritual that they really miss it when we skip a night.

(You can check out my blog, After the Bubbly for examples of interesting conversations started via the questions.)

Open Ended Questions Open Up Dialogue

The real goal of communication—at the dinner table or anywhere else—should be interaction. While there are times you just want a straight answer from your child, far more often you can use common open ended questions to really understand the way your child thinks—not to mention deeper insight into his or her dominant personality traits.

Here are a few get to know you questions for kids to get you started:

  • Do you ever have a dream that comes back over and over? If so, what is it like?
  • What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
  • If you could trade lives with somebody you know, who would it be?

Examples of Open Ended Questions for Children

The best thing about using these questions at the dinner table is that it makes kids actually want to talk to you. The following open-ended questions can get you started Of course, these open-ended questions examples here are just a suggestion. They give you an idea of how to structure any kind of question to illicit a substantive response.

Examples of open ended questions children will actually want to answer:

  • What do you think are the characteristics that make a good parent?
  • If you could decorate our whole house, what would it look like?
  • Tell me about something I never knew you did when you were little.

For more samples of open ended questions see the article, Top 50 Open Ended Questions For Sparking Conversation With Kids.

Image Credit: Oakley Originals, Flickr


Submit a Comment
  • Joel Diffendarfer profile image

    Joel Diffendarfer 

    5 years ago from Jonesville

    Having raised 9 children, I love this made me look back over the years at our multitude of family dinners. I was always looked to for being the dinner table monitor...I am a firm believer that the table is more than eating...regardless of the days's events, it should be a celebration and a time for encouragement. The table many times brought laughter to sadness, hope for the next day, and most of all...God to our hearts.

  • De Greek profile image

    De Greek 

    10 years ago from UK

    You have again made the point that one is never too old to learn. Well done :-)

  • billyaustindillon profile image


    10 years ago

    Great hub - perfect for families and interaction

  • wavegirl22 profile image


    10 years ago from New York, NY

    Lela - I love your 'get to know you' questions. This is a brilliant Hub that should be required reading for families everywhere! Rated up:)


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