> Family > Parenting

How to Make Your Shabbat Table a Place Kids Will Want to Be

August 29, 2019 | by Rebbetzin Chana Heller

The incredible power of a good, thought-provoking question.

Want to craft a meaningful, memorable and fun experience so that your children will look forward to Shabbat? We have so much competition for our children’s attention. What can we do that will trump social media, video games and whatever else your kids are glued to?

Rabbi Noah Weinberg of blessed memory often said that the best form of Jewish entertainment is asking good questions. That's how we Jews have kept ourselves not only entertained but connected to our Jewish texts and committed to our beautiful lifestyle over thousands of years of darkness, persecution and grinding poverty. Life was found in the study hall and at the Shabbat table, asking and answering deep, thought-provoking questions about life.

There is an art to this. You must choose questions appropriate to the various people and ages at your table. You can do it alone with your children or include another family. We have found that it works best with other people at your table; your children will tend to take it more seriously and not joke around. If you make it a regular feature of your Shabbos table the kids will look forward to it and perhaps even come up with their own questions.

We put a question out to the table and call it a “get to know you” question. As soon as we say this we often see the kids leaning in to the table with excitement. Two weeks ago a young child of one of our guests retorted, “I LOVE these types of questions!”

At our table we start with the children before the adults. Everyone get a chance to answer the question.

The benefits:

  • You get to know your children better

  • Your children get to know themselves and others better

  • Your children learn how to express themselves better and speak confidently

  • Everyone learns how to listen respectfully to others and respect their differences

  • Everyone learns how to validate others (with parents role modeling how to respond kindly to all types of answers)

  • You connect as a family, the old fashioned way, with eye contact and real conversation

  • You show your children that you want to hear what they have to say; you value their ideas and feelings. You take them seriously. You LISTEN in order to understand and appreciate them, not to refute them and get your own message across. Your kids feel understood and valued.

  • Instead of (or in addition to) the passive listening to a dvar Torah, everyone is engaged in the conversation

  • Your family will have greater enjoyment of Shabbat

I have added a list of possible questions below. Some are light and fun to get the ball rolling and get everyone comfortable with the exercise. Then you can go deeper.

The possibilities are endless and you can be as creative as you like with your own list of questions.

  1. What is the best compliment you have ever received?

  2. What is your greatest strength or weakness?

  3. If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else who would you pick and what would you do?

  4. If you could be any age for a week what age would that be and why?

  5. If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?

  6. What makes you happy or cheers you up if you feel sad?

  7. What is your favorite story or book and why?

  8. What habit are you proudest about breaking or want to break?

  9. What is the most courageous thing you have ever done?

  10. Who is your hero and why?

  11. What is something you have learned about yourself this year?

  12. If you could spend the day with anyone all by yourself who would it be and why?

  13. What is your favorite thing to spend money on?

  14. What accomplishments are you most proud of?

  15. If someone asked you to give them a piece of advice about life what would you say?

  16. What’s your biggest fear?

  17. Do you ever talk to God aside from formal prayer? What do you talk about?

  18. What do you think makes God proud of you?

  19. What is one of your goals in life?

  20. What's the best decision you ever made?

  21. If you could learn skill that you don’t have now what would you learn?

  22. What is your favorite form of exercise?

  23. What sound do you love?

  24. When do you feel most loved?

  25. If you could throw any kind of party what would it be like and what would it be for?

  26. If you could paint a picture of any scenery you've seen before what would you paint?

  27. If you could learn to do anything what would it be?

  28. If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?

  29. If you won the lottery what is the first thing you would do?

  30. If you could know the answer to any question what would it be?

  31. Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best?

  32. What was one of the hardest things you've ever done?

  33. What was the last experience that made you a kinder person?

  34. What's the best gift you've ever received?

  35. What are you grateful for this week?

  36. What is something you learned this week?

  37. What is your best memory so far?

  38. Of all the things you have done, what do you feel most proud of?

  39. If you could only keep five possessions what would they be?

  40. What teacher in school have you liked the best and why?

  41. What's your favorite thing to do in your free time?

  42. If you could witness an event of the past present or future what would it be?

  43. Tell me something about someone you envy.

  44. What a good way to make people feel good about themselves?

  45. If you could have one superpower what would it be and how would you use it?

  46. If you could speak another language which one would it be and why

  47. If you could time travel where would you go, past or future?

  48. What is your favorite holiday and why?

  49. Have you ever experienced a miracle?

  50. When you meet God at 120, what do you want to ask or say to Him?

  51. Who is the rich person? Wise person? Strong Person? Honored person? Everyone gets a chance to answer each one and you give the answers from Pirkei Avot 4:1.

  52. Pick another quote from Pirkei Avos and ask each person what do you think it means? ( or any quote you like)

  53. What is something you have learned about life from your mother? Your father?

  54. Would you rather by happy, rich or wise and why?


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