Ask These Questions Over Dinner

And you never know what you'll learn

by Carol Kaufmann | Updated 23 Oct 2017 at 1:51 PM

My husband and I insist on having a family dinner every night.

I’m not such a great cook, and with both of us working, “dinner” is often a rather haphazard affair of Trader Joe’s heat-and-eat entrees and some romaine lettuce thrown in a bowl.

But we do sit down, and we do talk with our two kids, both under age 10 and growing so fast. We want to know how school went that day, how they’re coping on the playground and at recess, if they’re learning things that stimulate their minds, and if they’re having any kind of fears or issues.

Related: Best Dreams for Our Kids

But as any parent knows, this information is often hard to extract. Especially if the kiddos know ice cream is in the house and they might have a shot at a few scoops. Sometimes our standard questions — “What was the best and worst part of your day?” which we thought were oh-so-clever — just don’t cut it.

One night, though, we hit on a formula that kept the whole table interested and, surprisingly, yielded real information, not to mention a whole lot of laughs.

Ask them: If you were stranded on a desert island …

It’s the “What would you do on a desert island?” question, with a few twists.

Ask them: If you were stranded on a desert island …

  1. What three objects from our home would you like to have with you, and why?
  2. Which three interesting people — whom you’ve never met — would you invite, and why?
  3. If the island needed three great teachers, which ones would you pick? Why ?
  4. Which books would you take with you?
  5. The desert island has no Wi-Fi. What videos would you load on an iPad, assuming there are chargers and outlets?
  6. What movies would you take? (Because, surprising to us, videos and movies are not remotely in the same category.)
  7. Which three songs would you put on the iPod?
  8. Which three family members, other than your parents, would you invite?

The answer to that last one is highly revealing. Both of our kids seemed to favor their grandparents, ignoring their insanely cool aunts, uncles, and cousins, who would provide far more amusing diversions and entertainment — or so we parents thought. (Maybe they thought we needed discipline.)

Related: I Hear My Kids Loud and Clear

The point at dinner, as always, is to talk — to learn something about how your kids are growing and developing and processing the big, wide world, and to understand what they hold dear at this particular point in time so you can help guard it, nurture it, encourage it and develop it.

Aside from spying on them while they go about their daily business (which their school really frowns upon), asking them desert island questions, I’ve found, gets a parent pretty close.

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