Bilingual is Better

56 Questions in Spanish to Spark Family Dinner Conversations {Printable Sheet} - SpanglishBaby.com

I recently read a fascinating study about how dinnertime conversation supports literacy development. Although the study was conducted in English, the fundamental findings seem to apply in all languages: family mealtimes were more often a predictor of academic and social success than even time spent studying, or participation in sports or church.

Regardless of family demographics, teenagers in the U.S. who eat with their families five times a week or more have higher rates of academic success, and lower rates of alcohol and drug use.

Obviously families who eat together are more likely to spend time keeping an eye on their kids and their activities and friends, but there seems to be more about family dinner conversations that help keep kids out of trouble. When we engage our kids in meaningful conversations at dinner, we get a glimpse into their world, their opinions, and their fears. Parents don’t only learn more intimate details about our kids and their friends, in family chats we have the opportunity to:

  • teach them social etiquette
  • show how to debate a topic
  • practice expressing their opinions, telling stories, and understanding
  • see other perspectives
  • learn new words/concepts

One of the greatest benefits of mealtime conversations is the language development. As the parent of four kids ages 5-8 (who speak English all day at school!) I am always looking for more ways to get my kids speaking in Spanish. My husband and I sat down and came up with 56 questions to stimulate conversation in Spanish. The questions ask about wishes, likes/dislikes, opinions, friends — great for parents and kids to answer together and hopefully get everyone involved.

Here’s how you can participate: print out the list, cut apart the questions and fold them up. At dinner, have family members take turns picking out a question and answering it. For the little ones who can’t read yet, let them pick out a question and have an older sibling or mami or papi read it. Don’t worry about grammar or mispronunciations — enjoy the moment and focus on the content of what’s being said. Turn off the TV, relax, laugh and have fun!

For a printable version of the 56 conversation starters in Spanish click here.

How often does your family get to sit down and eat dinner together? How do you get your kids to speak more Spanish at dinnertime?

{Photo courtesy of Becky Morales}

References: Snow, C., & Beals, D. (2006). Mealtime talk that supports literacy development. In Larson, R., Wiley, A., & Branscomb, K. (Eds.), Family mealtime as a context of development and socialization (pp. 1-15). San Francisco, CA: Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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