How to Have a Device Free Dinner
Ever notice when kids don’t have their face in a screen, they’re still thinking and talking like they do. There are times my grandson seems to be speaking a foreign language, with great enthusiasm, but it’s not anything I understand. Any time day or night, he’s talking about the Roblox or Minecraft characters, or details on the world he built. Once we get to a place for regular conversation, it seems all I’ve got to say is, “Is your homework done?” or “How was school today?” No wonder talking game characters is more fun.
This is just not working for me anymore. I miss my grandson. Yes, I listen to some Minecraft talk. But I miss him. I miss hearing what else he’s thinking about. I want him to think about something else. Our visual learners have rich imaginations, and it’s frustrating when we see it being used so much of the time to play someone else’s games. There’s merit in it, with boundaries, but it’s critical we get them thinking and imagining for themselves too. And, critical to help them develop the language skills they need to describe what they’re thinking and what they can imagine.
I’ve been brewing on finding common ground. Finding a steady stream of things, we can talk about together. Not homework and not tech talk. And I’ve got a great idea that’s going to get visual kids talking. It’s going to get the whole family talking. You’ll all be thinking, sharing and listening to each other. We’re going to start with carving out time to sit and eat together. With a ban on tech devices at the table, everyone will be available to talk, mom and dad included. Then we’re going to use conversation starters to get everyone talking, to each other, and not just about homework or the family schedule. (Those are good to talk about, but let’s go for more.) These are simple, open-ended questions to help get everyone thinking about new ideas, new topics. Some are funny. They can be thoughtful, silly or introspective. And are meant for both parents and kids to talk.
Tell a ‘little boy story’ or ‘little girl story’. My hubby is great at making his childhood sound like a 50’s sitcom, complete with sound effects. His stories are full of drama, suspense and funny characters.
If story telling is not your forte, try ‘Show your funniest face.’ or ‘What made you feel proud today?’.
Get started with the ideas I’ve prepared for you, and when you and your kids get the hang of it, there are endless possibilities. To make it less partisan, cut the topics in smaller strips of paper, fold or curl and place in vase in the middle of the table. Your kids will enjoy being the one to choose the paper and ask the next question.
A few ground rules: Everyone talks. One person at a time. Everyone listens – non-judgmentally. Positive comments only. This is supposed to be fun and get everyone talking, even laughing.
Since the world seems to be stuck in tech/screen talk, conversation can be lagging even with your family and friends. Get everyone who comes in the house involved in your device free dinners. Although it’s kind of rude to collect everyone’s phones when they sit down at your dinner table, people love game shows, so dinner can be a fun event. Turn off your phones and get ready for the great conversation. It’s amazing what you will learn about each other!
Let me know how it goes in the comments below.