Conversation helps children express their thoughts, get what they need, resolve conflicts, ask for help, and learn from adults and from one another but talking to your child about how they’re feeling can be hard. Many conversation starters with your children just involve taking 20 minutes with them to do an activity you’ll both enjoy – this creates a relaxed space to start that conversation.
Importance of having conversations with your children
Why is it so important to have conversation starters with your children? MIT cognitive scientists have now found that conversation between an adult and a child appears to change the child’s brain, and that this back-and-forth conversation is actually more critical to language development than the word gap. In a study of children between the ages of 4 and 6, they found that differences in the number of “conversational turns” accounted for a large portion of the differences in brain physiology and language skills that they found among the children. This finding applied to children regardless of parental income or education.
The findings suggest that parents can have considerable influence over their children’s language and brain development by simply engaging them in conversation, the researchers say.
“The important thing is not just to talk to your child, but to talk with your child. It’s not just about dumping language into your child’s brain, but to actually carry on a conversation with them,” says Rachel Romeo, a graduate student at Harvard and MIT and the lead author of the paper, which appears in Psychological Science.
20 minute activities for conversation starters with your children
Need some inspiration? Here’s a list of activities that are great for conversation starters with your children that you could do in twenty minutes.
One: Play a Ball Game
Football, catch, basketball, dodgeball… there are so many ball games to choose from! All you need is a garden, or a green space and a ball. Or even try a game of marbles inside if outdoor space is not available! Ask your child which they’d like to play or talk about their favourite sports team.
Baking is a great activity to do together! Jemma loves a bake with her children but my sister seems to have nicked all my baking abilities! For those who are like me and not that confident baking, or don’t have regular time and so don’t have the right ingredients, take a look at our range of baking gifts….everything you need, ready for some baking fun with the children or party bag idea. Then, pop the kettle on and sit down together to enjoy your bakes together and have another natter!
Three: Talk a Walk
Sometimes taking 20 minutes is as simple as taking a walk, whether it’s through nearby countryside, to the shops or around the block with the family dog – just wrap up warm! It’s a great time for them to talk about anything that’s on their mind.
Four: Have a boogie
If your child loves to dance, let their feet do the talking. Ask them to pick out their favourite song or family favourite. Teach one another some dance moves, and then see if you can come up with some dance moves of your own together.
Five: Explore Somewhere New
There are always areas that you won’t have been to, even nearby. Gill finally explored some local woodland area last year with her girls and had such a great adventure! The best explorers use their senses, so switch off your phones, avoid distractions and use team work.
Six: Encourage Green Fingers
We love sowing some seeds and watching them grow together! If you’re not green fingered, try something easy like sunflowers. For lots of tips, even if you don’t have access to outdoor growing space, take a read of how gardening helps your children’s mental and physical health.
Yoga is a great relaxing activity to do together at home. A quick search on YouTube will bring up lots of beginners’ or child friendly videos you can try.
There are so many 20 minute crafts out there but we love these create your own space adventure gifts (perfect for party bags too!) where your little astronaut and yourself can have fun making your own solar system collage and rocket by recycling the cardboard box and using our awesome templates!⠀
Ask your child if there’s something they want to learn how to cook and make it with them. Amy has her own cookbook with step by step instructions which she loves. It also gives her a huge sense of achievement when her sister says it’s delicious! For younger children, decorating their own pizza is a great way to get them involved in the kitchen.
Ten: Indoor Picnic
20 minutes is perfect for having an indoor picnic! Lay out a blanket, pick out your family’s favourite finger food and have a picnic in the comfort of home. A relaxed and fun way to eat your meal – great for conversations to start!
Eleven: Family Tech-Free Game
There are so many traditional tech free games to play. Our current favourite as a quick game and also perfect for travel/restaurants is UNO.
Twelve: Build a Fort
We used to have hours of fun building forts. Bring out your inner child and grab some blankets, bedsheets, cushions, chairs and fairy lights to create your own cosy little fort. Then curl up in there and have a natter!
Thirteen: Create a Family Playlist
Music has a great way of connecting people. If your child loves their music, try sharing some music together (you might not have all the same tastes!) by creating a family playlist. Maybe try making them for different occasions such as when you’re in the car?
Fourteen: Get Involved in Role Play
These brilliant colour in capes can add a little drama and fun to their role play! Sit and chat to them whilst they colour them in and then get involved in the role play, from superhero to villain, from unicorn to pokemon – let the fun (and conversation!) begin!⠀⠀
Fifteen: Happy Time
We’ve started doing some positive reflection at bedtime and Samuel in particular loves snuggling down and filling in his My Happy Journal with Jemma. At the end of the day it’s very easy to reflect on what went wrong and not see the good but these journals have really helped us all to have those conversations about the day and think positive things that have happened and not just the negatives. A great tool to help them with the stresses and anxieties of school….even if they really enjoy school, there is still a lot for them to process! Plus with heaps of added fun activities to help them relax and lots of facts for us all to learn!⠀
Sixteen: Shared Journal
‘The Little Book of You, Me and My Feelings’ is a unique journal for parents and children to share. Through this journal and it’s activities, you can explore emotions, build connections and support your child to develop tools for emotional wellbeing. It’s aimed at children approx 6 -11 years and is a perfect support for you to guide your child’s emotional health.
Seventeen: Screenfree Family Dinner Time
We all love our colour in tablecloths…we put away the phones and sit, colour and chat away for ages! It’s also perfect when we go travelling with friends and family….often the adults are there colouring with a glass of wine in hand in the evening nattering away! And once it’s all been coloured….just wash out and start again! Or if you struggle with getting the children to sit through a meal at the restaurant and you want to not resort to giving them a screen, our girls love taking their placemat to go with them to colour in. ⠀
Eighteen: Add to Your Scrapbook
Gill loves a scrapbook and letting the girls help her stick in little mementos of things they have done has been a great conversation starter. The girls also love our 100 ideas to do before they grow old which provides lots of inspiration for activities to do with the children to help balance the screen time and encourage conversation! ⠀
Nineteen: Coffee Shop Date
Ours love it when we stop for a quick cuppa break whilst we’re out – it is a great place to sit and have a chat. It’s often whilst we’re out doing errands although sometimes we make it a special trip out.
Twenty: Bedtime Snuggles
We find that with our children, cuddling down at bedtime is a great time to chat. They feel relaxed and often tell us so much more about their day than at any other time. Plus, it is a great way to wind down and encourage sleep.
Thank you for reading and hope we have given you lots of ideas for conversation starters with your children!
Jemma and Gill xxx
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