Like many other parents, I am exhausted at dinner on school nights. Seriously. Exhausted. It's that hour between the work and homework part of the day...and the convincing my children that they are tired enough to go to that I can go to bed. 

I also know that family dinners provide a wonderful opportunity for rich discussion, not just for throwing spaghetti at your brother.

Last summer, I found a lovely Melissa and Douglas game for dinner. It featured questions that sparked my children's imaginations and, more often than not, led to great conversations.

I'm spending this summer building my own list of questions around the big ideas that have shaped our world. I will add to these weekly and would love your input, reactions, or even videos of your conversations.


What is the difference between emotion and knowledge?

Can you know something without experiencing it?

Can the same thinking lead to different conclusions?

Can different ways of thinking lead to the same conclusions?

Platonic thought

Can questioning lead to understanding?

What is good?

How do we know what is right and what is wrong?

Plato's Cave

Does opinion interfere with knowledge?

When I imagine a table or a dog and you imagine a table or a dog, could we be imaging the same thing?

What can we learn from what our ideas have in common?

 Can a shadow say the same? Can we both see the same shadow?

While on a walk in the woods...

What does the ground feel like?

What do you think happens here at night time?

If we’re really quiet, what can you hear? Why don't we hear these sounds normally?

If you climbed to the top of that tree and looked around, what do you think you would be able to see from there?

What would be some really great paintings you could make of what you’ve seen here?

How do you think that stream got its path going through here?

To spark empathy

How do you think he/she feels right now?

How would you feel if this happened?

Could there be another reason for what he/she did?

What might he/she be upset about?

What might make him/her happy right now?

To invite tolerance

(When there is a creative difference or difference of opinion)

Why do you think he/she feels the way he/she does?

Could you imagine another solution to this problem?

Do you think one of your friends might address this differently?

What you if you were watching this conversation like it was a movie? What motivates the characters? Could they both want the same thing but be expressing it differently?

Would we view this differently if we assumed everyone has good intentions?

When discussing AI (artificial intelligence)

In what ways are you like - and not like - a computer or a machine?

Could a computer be smarter than a person?

What does it mean to learn something?

Is learning something different from understanding something?

How is life different from AR? Could we actually just be wearing a really high tech form of an oculus right now - and maybe even be someplace else?

Always followed by "Tell me more about your thoughts."