9 Games, Cards, and Toys to Kickstart Actually Good Dinner Table Conversation

published Nov 15, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Whether it’s been several days since you last met or several years, keeping a conversation going with friends or family around the dinner table can have its challenges. It’s not hard to find yourself in a never ending loop of “I’m fine,” and “How about that weather?” when tasked with the challenge of actually talking to each other. And it’s even harder to dig deeper without falling into tricky topics like politics.

Initiating and then continuing a conversation with anyone isn’t just luck. It’s a science, said Paul J. Zak, professor and founder of Immersion Neuroscience, and scientific advisor to new conversation app Remento. “Human-scale stories that have authentic emotions are the narratives our brains value most. Tell people how you felt during your experience and show vulnerability by being honest. This will cause others to similarly open up and share their best stories,” he says.

Throw in comfortable conditions to provide for physiological safety along with genuine listeners and you’ve got the makings for a good conversation. Just in case you still find yourself struggling, here are nine little conversation helpers meant to get you talking and connecting with those around the dinner table. 

If you feel like you’ve talked about everything under sun yet nothing at all, this conversational glassware can take the lead. Every few sips dictates a new topic. When the conversation gets stale, just take another sip and see where it leads. 

If you’ve been short on joy the last two years, the ongoing Big Joy Project could be exactly what you need to spark some happiness and talk about something besides work for once. The challenge invites you to spend seven minutes a day for seven days engaging in micro-acts meant to elicit joy. Sign up and do the challenge together as a group and discuss come dinner time. Or, simply share your experience and use the following scientifically proven joy boosters  as conversation starters: gratitude, awe, affirming important values, kind acts, and reframing. 

Who says kids have nothing meaningful to talk about? It could be that adults just haven’t clued into how to engage them. The Little Talk conversation deck shares 150 topic starters to get a conversation going between little kids and adults who just might be big kids at heart. Some of the best prompts include: “How old is old?” and “What do you think about when you can’t go to sleep?” 

Socially conscious families are built at the dinner table through meaningful and challenging discussions. Alltruists can help facilitate those conversations through a plethora of impact kits with conversation guides pertaining to each community project packed inside. The dinner scratch-off card offers a quick and easy way to help kids understand food insecurity and provides appropriate reflection questions to help the discussion as the meal ends. 

Once the meal is devoured and the table has been cleared, take out this Jenga-like game for some excitement and entertaining discussion all in one. Each block introduces an interesting topic that can’t be ignored. 

People create a keepsake book to preserve the memories and legacy of parents, grandparents, and other loved ones through meaningful questions. Rather than having one grandparent answer the questions individually, the whole family can get in on it. Chat with the wise relatives of the group about which family members helped shape their character, what their favorite job was, and more. 

If you’re dealing with lots of dead air and dead space on the table, roll the dice and let the conversation fly. Choose from the printed questions on each of the 12 sides to get the chat going. 

Just like a good conversation, this game has no rules — just the potential for a good time that will cut the awkwardness. Split the dinner table into groups and discuss questions such as, “Is there a difference between loving someone and being in love with someone?” 

No dinner will ever be devoid of discussion with this set of napkins. Each one shares a prompt meant to turn any meal into a night of storytelling and memorable conversation.