Table Topics & Dinner Dialogue Builds Intimacy W/Kids

tt-images.jpg“I’m thankful for…”

C’mon now, don’t give me a ‘Miss America’ answer; what’s an event, a growth point, an ‘aha’ moment you’ve had firsthand? We ALL know experience matters!)

Intimacy-building can be dicey stuff, especially when kids are in ‘preadolescent privacy’ mode…Nevertheless, table time can be the equivalent of the carpool ‘rearview mirror’ when you bat around banter with ease over dessert or ‘parlor games.’

My fave conversation starters right now? Books like “If” (Questions for the Game of Life) and “If2” and the various booklovers forums, sequels, and Kids Book of Questions, as well as the original “Table Topics” cubes to pull a card from the set and turn the table into an ‘open mike’ forum.

Or…break out the index cards and create a DIY collection on the topic of your choice!

Growing up, my ‘family of origin’ was a mashup of disparate personalities, sometimes hilariously edgy entertainment. (I remember one of my brother’s high school friends used to just ‘come hang out’ at the dinner table and listen to us like a radio show…a BBC script of barbs and jabs to poke and prod for responses and toss a nugget on the table for debate.)

There’s irony that I’m now in a bit of a force-field of much more reticent playmates, so I break out the marketing ‘props’ to try to engage, enlighten, and bridge into authenticity, to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before.’

Sometimes extraction is worse than a splinter…but I try for connectivity at multiple levels and take what I can get.

The open-ended questions in the game cube run the gamut from the mundane to the profound, it’s all what you make of it, so it’s a challenge to see whether your tablemates prefer the deep end or the shallow end in the pool of life.

As with most branded products, the original idea and company premise is brilliant yet the offshoots sometimes get diluted in translation, as is the case with most of the line extensions being marketed with niche appeal.

For example, kids, as usual, are underestimated, given questions in their ‘topic specific’ “to-go” deck like, “What would be a really good flavor for toothpaste? What’s your favorite Disney character/color/song lyric, etc.?”

The teen edition sparks some authenticity with queries like, “What will be the best thing about leaving home and what will be the scariest? Which personality trait has gotten you into the most trouble?”

Ultimately, I still prefer the original cube of cards which house open-ended, esoteric questions like:

“If you could have any view from your back porch, what would it be? What’s the perfect age? Which other culture would you choose to be born into? What historical event would you like to witness? When is it ok to lie? What is your favorite family tradition?”

That kind of thing fuels the fire of conversation and gets people stroking the ol’ chin in ‘hmn…never thought of that’ mode…

To me, this is an opportunity to get to know one another instead of safely tuning out for the pageantry of ‘floats and football’ or stuffing yourself with the electronic media of your choice.

Connect. Engage. Converse. It’s family time, folks…the lost art of conversation needs to emerge to balance out the surround sound of media.

This grandparents.com archive sums:

“Some grandkids are non-stop blabbers and others need electroshock therapy to pry more than one-word answers out of them…Welcome TableTopics Family…This nifty little box contains a multitude of provocative questions to focus the blabbers and stimulate the silent types. Just try sitting around the dinner table and asking: Which is more important, intelligence or common sense?”

Anyway, you get the idea…Get to know your kids, they’ll thank you for it later. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…

From the web/geocities; Enchanted Forest Creek:

1. If you could have a round-trip ride in a time machine and travel any distance into the past or future, where would you want to go?

2. If you were alone and had only a few minutes to hide from crooks who were about to break into your house, where would you hide? What is the best hiding place in your house?

3. If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

4. Would you like to have an identical twin? What about it would be best? Worst?

5. If you woke up tomorrow and by magic were already grown-up and had kids of your own, how would you treat them differently from the way your parents treat you?

6. If you could change any one thing about your parents, what would it be?

7. Would you rather be very poor and have parents who loved you and each other, or be wealthy and have parents who ignored you and were always fighting with each other?

8. Would you be willing to never again get any gifts and surprises if instead you could just ask for anything you wanted and have your parents buy it for you?

9. If you were to be granted any one magical power you wanted, what would you pick?

10. Parents can do more but have more responsibilities; children can play more but are often told what to do. Do you think kids or parents have a better deal?

11. If you could see into the future but not change it, would you want to do so?

12. If you couldn’t watch TV for a year, what do you think you would do with all of your extra time? Do you think you would by better off if you watched TV more or less than you do now? Why?

13. If you could have either the ability to talk to animals or the power to see into the future, which would you want?

14. How do you feel when you see someone who is disfigured or crippled? Could you be best friends with someone who was extremely ugly?

15. What things scare you even though you know there is no reason to be afraid?

16. If you had to pick a new first name for yourself, what would you choose?

17. What Indian names would you choose for each person in your family? Why?

18. Do you think it is fun to be a parent? If so, what do you think is the best thing about it? If not, why do you think people have children?

19. If you became so sick that you would die if you didn’t stay hooked up to a large life-support machine for the rest of your life, would you want someone to pull the plug?

20. If you bought something in a store and the clerk gave you a dollar extra in change, would you say anything about his mistake?

21. If you had a lot of money and could use it in any way you wanted, what would you do with it?

22. Would you rather receive a gift you really wanted, or give your mother a gift she would absolutely treasure?

23. What good book have you read lately?

24. What is your favorite season of the year? Why?

25. What is you idea of a dream vacation?

26. What is the most enjoyable way for you to spend $25?

27. If you could buy any rare collection in the world, which would you choose?

28. If you could be anywhere for the New Year, where would you most want to be?

Visual Credit: ChickLingo, ‘Things Chicks Love’ (cute gift site, created by a mother-daughter duo in Seattle!)

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Comments

  1. Isn’t this the truth. And these are great questions. I think I’ll use some for grammology. I hope this inspires more parents to really get to know what in the minds of our children, teens, and young adults.

    Great post..
    Dorothy from grammology
    remember to call your gram

    http://grammology.com

  2. All: Check out Vanessa’s post on this which uses Kubit2Me, a variation on this concept:
    http://www.kubit2me.com/

    Fun!!!!!!!!!! Here’s her full post on 20 Tween & Teen Conversation Starters:
    http://www.vanessavanpetten.com/2008/06/02/table-topics/#comment-1825

  3. Here is another site for table topics.

    http://www.whatsfordinner.net/TableTopics.html

    They are written by a former elementary teacher and often include brain games. Two new topics each day.

  4. Thanks, Mary; nice to have them as ‘non-consumables’ too…(meaning off the cuff/only the fly anytime questions!) Appreciate the link! Oblige, –a.

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