Inside: 80 of the best conversation starters for kids! Conversation starters are organized by category and kinds of questions: Getting to know your child (even) better, questions to encourage gratitude, questions to foster a resilient mindset, questions to develop critical and creative thinking, questions to foster emotional growth and empathy, fun and funny questions, and what fills your cup? Favorites! For kids of all ages from toddlers to teens.
Talk to the mother of any teenager, and they will give you the same advice: make sure your child knows they can talk to you — that no matter what has happened, they can always come to you and talk to you.
Ensuring that your relationship with your child is one of open communication takes conscious effort, especially as your kids get older and only grudgingly answer questions about their day with monosyllables and one-word answers.
While conversation starters aren’t THE answer to open communication, they can be an important piece of the puzzle. These questions are designed to get to know your child on an even deeper level and to discuss things you might not think about otherwise — things about resiliency, critical thinking, and emotions.
Make conversations with your child a judgment-free zone. Before you begin, tell yourself to practice active listening — listening without giving advice or your opinion. If your child asks the question back to you or you take turns asking questions, answer those. But when your child is answering — simply Listen. Pause. Think.
Remember, there is no such thing as a wrong answer! If your child’s answer isn’t what you were expecting, ask a follow-up question, or make a note to yourself that a book about the topic would be a good read-together activity. Perhaps you discover your child has a fear you didn’t know about or that they have a bias you need to address. Note it and then decide to thoughtfully approach it at another time. In the moment of the conversation itself, simply listen.
There is really no more beautiful gift than holding space for your child’s thoughts and fears — their hopes and dreams. Hold that space for your child’s heart and mind.
1. Conversation Starters to Know Their Hearts: Connect
These questions are designed to get to know your child on an even deeper level. Questions about what a friend is, what they imagine, and what their inner world is like helps you see your child on a whole new level. I’ve included sample questions within each category. You can instantly download the full set here.
- What is your favorite kind of story?
- If you lived in a treehouse what would it look like?
- What makes someone a good friend?
- If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
- If you could time travel where would you go?
2. Conversation Starters to Encourage Gratitude and Optimistic Thinking
Our brains are designed to detect threats in our environment. This is called a negativity bias — the idea that our brains pay attention to things that make us feel stressed or upset.
This is because our brains are designed to protect us and to focus on our survival.
Children naturally can do this too. And it can get out of balance, leading to intense worries or fears. We can help counterbalance the brain’s negativity bias by consciously looking for the positives — to be grateful for specific things — to find beauty in the small things.
Conversation starters are a great way to encourage gratitude and optimism in your child. Put the questions in a bowl at the dinner table and have each member of the family take turns asking a question.
- What are you thankful for today?
- It feels good to do good. What made you feel good today?
- How did someone help you today?
- What is something that you don’t need, but that you are really grateful you have?
- What was the best part of your day?
Instantly download and print the full set of 80 conversation starters to encourage open communication and bonding with your child! What makes a good conversation starter? A good conversation starter is a question that helps you get to know your child on a deeper level and encourages gratitude, optimistic thinking, a resilient mindset, critical thinking skills, emotional growth, and a healthy sense of humor.
Download, print, cut-out, and place in a bowl at your dinner table and you have a family bonding activity ready to go. Click here to get yours today!
3. Conversation Starters to Foster a Resilient Mindset
On your child’s worst days, help them see the silver lining or also see that hard things can be done and we can grow from doing hard things.
Seeing the good in the world, even when times are tough helps kids be resilient. This helps strengthen their beliefs that they can do good in the world, a hallmark of cognitive hardiness.
- What is a silver-lining that you noticed recently?
- What can you do to make tomorrow a great day?
- How did you help someone recently?
- What do you say to yourself when something is hard?
- What is one thing you are proud of?
4. Conversation Starters to Develop Critical and Creative Thinking Skills
To be able to approach a problem in different ways is true innovation — a trait we prize, but we don’t focus on how it develops. We just assume some people have this ability, this innate talent — but actually, it is a learned skill.
We can raise children who are aware of their thinking, we can encourage our children to engage in flexible thinking and innovative thought.
- If you could discover something new, what would it be?
- If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
- What is something that you believe that someone else might disagree with?
- What animal are you most like and why?
- If you had a box and you could turn it into anything, what would you turn it into?
5. Conversation Starters to Foster Emotional Growth
As a culture, we have shunned talking about emotions or even feeling them. We stuff them down and then try to escape the inevitable build-up that comes from avoidance and denial.
Our kids, thankfully, are growing up in a new age where we are more open about emotions. Imagine, what it would be like if all parents asked their kids about their feelings, good or “bad,” with no judgment or needing to do anything about it. What a world that would be!
While conversation starters aren’t the answer — they are a wonderful place to start — to open up conversations about feelings — to make family and home a safe place to express your feelings.
- How do you help yourself face your fears?
- What feelings last? What feelings come and go?
- What is one way you show love to yourself and take care of yourself?
- What do you do to show someone you love them?
- What is something you do to feel calm?
6. Fun and Funny Conversation Starters
It is a beautiful thing to help your child develop a healthy sense of humor. An ability to laugh when the chips are down, or even at themselves.
Laugh often and they will laugh with you. Be silly and they will be silly too. Tell jokes and they will tell jokes too.
I think the best way to help your child build a healthy sense of humor is to try to make them laugh. They will return the favor, laughter will become a good habit and a sense of humor will bloom before your eyes!
- What is the funniest sound you can make?
- Which vegetable would you be and why?
- What is a joke you can think of right now?
- If our pet could talk, what would s/he say?
- What does my laugh sound like?
7. What Fills Your Cup? Favorites!
We have a tradition in our house that we do from time to time. It is the “Family Cup” — just a glass jar and pebbles to the side. When things have been harried and tense, I pull out the family cup. You can get your family cup printouts here.
For every negative interaction, marriage researcher John Gottman has found that your need 5 positive interactions to balance things out. This is what the family cup is all about – creating a positive home. We all write down what fills our cup — extra hugs, a favorite spot on the sofa, an extra book at bedtime, help with clearing the table, etc. And each time someone fills your cup you put a pebble in the jar!
That’s what knowing about your everyone’s favorites is all about! When you know what fills each person’s in your family’s cup, you are fostering a positive home.
- What is your favorite color?
- What is your favorite family tradition?
- What is your favorite candy?
- What is your most favorite joke of all time?
- What is your favorite game to play as a family?
I hope these conversation starters are a great way to foster open and trusting communication with kids of all ages. This is just one tool, but I think it can be a very powerful one. For your child to share their heart and mind with you is such a beautiful gift.