It's a common dinner-table conversation ploy. Somebody asks, "What did you do today?" Unfortunately, that won't carry the talk past the first sips of water when your loved one -- and maybe you, too -- spent the whole day doing the same things as the day before, and the day before that.
Instead, try these fresh approaches to dinner table conversation:
1. Ask, "What's the funniest thing you saw today?"
TV counts. So do the wacky squirrels out the window and the strange people at the local grocery store.
2. Try "What was the worst thing that happened today?"
If it was a pretty lousy day for all of you, try this variation. Sometimes by sharing a bummer of a story yourself, you can get others at the table to either commiserate with their own tales of woe or work to cheer you up -- which lifts everyone's moods.
3. Ask, "What are you looking forward to tomorrow?"
Remaining forward-focused can help boost the mood for everyone. Talk about upcoming appointments and errands, a visitor arriving a few weeks from now, or someone you plan to call.
4. Hold a tell-a-joke day.
Plan ahead so that everyone comes to the table with a joke -- of whatever type of humor suits your family. Kids can Google one. Your loved one may have a trove of oldies-but-goodies that you've never heard. Or buy a joke book.
5. Ask, "What do you think?"
Come prepared to talk about a current headline or trend. Invite your loved one to share what he or she thinks about the matter.
6. Share pop culture.
Let kids talk about a funny video they're watching or song they like. As long as they're sharing it with everyone, this is one time when it's okay to bring a phone or iPad to the table.
7. Hold a group planning session.
Consider an upcoming event together (a birthday, a visitor's arrival, or an approaching holiday or celebration). Elicit everyone's participation early, from youngest to oldest. What needs to be done? Who will do it? It won't happen if you try to do it all alone, but if everyone collaborates, everyone has a good time -- and you can pass many meals with plenty to say.