Thanks to several friends of The Playroom Lubbock, a recent blog post circulated around which you may have noticed: The Key Jar by the Momastery blog. You can find it here: http://momastery.com/blog/2015/04/24/key-jar/
This prompted me to share so many great ideas to engage your kids in conversation without the worn out "How was your day" question. Our kids learn and feel engaged in different ways: some are more verbal and love to use their words, others love using their whole bodies, some like to be analytical, and some like to be dramatic or silly. Hopefully you can adapt some of these ideas to work well for you and your child or to work well for at home, in the car, or tucked away in your purse.
Before I unlock these ideas, let's dive into some great points Momastery had in their blog post.
Glennon also writes, "Thoughtful questions are the keys we use to do the unlocking and safekeeping." I would like to add that quality time and play in an emotionally safe environment can also greatly contribute to unlocking a child's world. It's almost time to unlock some of these ideas, but secondly, let's talk about how to "safekeep" your child's answers to these questions in order to promote a nonjudgmental and encouraging conversation.
1. Reflect or paraphrase their answer
2. Leave out your opinion. It could come across judgemental or that you are evaluating their response as right/wrong.
3. Verbalize the feeling you sense from your child. "You're feeling ______about that."
4. Ask how you can help
5. Ask what your child would like to do next to accomplish ______
6. Reassure your child that you are available to any of their questions/concerns
7. Refrain from giving advice unless your child specifically asks.
8. Show your attention by using eye contact and freeing your hands.
9. Be considerate of your child's vulnerability in sharing something personal. It may not be something to share with siblings, friends, or social media.
10 Ways to engage your kids in conversation
1. TableTopics is a cube of conversation cards that can be purchased for around $25. They come in sets for family, couples, teens, etc. Decide upon a time your child can draw a card. This would be great for in the car or stash a few in your purse.
2. Head over to Momastery and print the Key Jar questions for free. http://momastery.com/blog/2015/04/24/key-jar/
3. Buy a game of Jenga just for a conversation game. Use a sharpie marker to write down questions. Set up the Jenga game in a safe place and each day your child can find the challenge of drawing a Jenga block from the tower and answering the question. (From http://somethingtotalkaboutslp.blogspot.com/2012/01/conversation-jenga.html?m=1
4. Use a beach ball or other large plastic ball and a sharpie to write questions. Toss the ball and wherever your child's thumb or index finger lands, that is the question to answer. Great for kids who like to be active or use their bodies. (from http://morethanelementary.blogspot.com/2011/08/getting-to-know-you-activity-with-beach.html?m=1
5. Use a jigsaw puzzle to write questions on the back. Your child can flip a piece over each day to answer.
6. Use play mustaches (found for $1 at Dollar Tree) and the free printable "I Mustache You a Question Conversation Starters" from teacherspayteachers.com. This gives kids a dramatic or silly approach to answering more serious questions.
7. Use a wand or a sword to answer questions. This gives kids a sense of power to be able to wave a wand or sword in conversation. (from http://heidibritz.com/2015/04/29/every-slp-needs-a-magic-wand/
8. Use puzzle floor mats and papers with questions. This can be a hop scotch type game, bean bag toss game, or musical squares. Where ever the child lands or the bean bag lands, he answers that question. Great for active kids!
9. Head over to iMom for some printable conversation starters you can cut out and keep in a jar, diaper wipes, container, or something your child can decorate and "take ownership." http://www.imom.com/printable_categories/conversation-starters/
10. Use puppets! You can pick up puppets at the Dollar Tree. Use some printable questions and your child can pick up a puppet to help answer their question. Helps children with risk taking of being honest and vulnerable.
We hope you enjoy adapting these ideas to fit your child's personality and needs. Feel free to comment with your own ideas or share these with others.