Kids want to be known, and not just by their parents (their #1 source of value). They want their teachers, coaches, scout leaders, and neighbors to know their names, their interests, and their talents. Granted, some kids seem to want to be left alone, but even the shy ones deeply desire to be known by others on some level. It’s ingrained in all of us. Nobody likes to called by the wrong name (sibling confusion is common). Nobody enjoys being overlooked by the cool coach who loves to talk with the cool kids on the team. And when it’s halfway through the year and the teacher still can’t remember your name, it hurts.
Some adults are natural-born kid-lovers. They just know exactly how to talk to kids and make them laugh. Somehow they get away with teasing them to no end, or the kids just flock to them because they feel safe and loved with them. They make great youth leaders, mentors, and assistant coaches. However, it’s not so easy for most adults to connect with kids, especially if they don’t think they have anything in common with them.
Fortunately, it’s not rocket surgery. So, here are some easy conversation starters. First and foremost, always call a kid by name every time you see him or her. If you can’t remember his or her name, then find out (to avoid the same problem next time).
How’s it going today? What’s up this morning / afternoon / evening?
What did you do this last weekend? What was the best / worst part of it?
What are you doing this next weekend? Anything fun or unusual?
What are you doing for Christmas Break? (Adapt to whatever break is upcoming)
What sport are you playing this season? How’s that going? What position do you play? What team? Who is on that team that I might know? Who’s your coach? Where do you play? Does your teams travel? Is it your favorite sport? Do you think you’ll play that in high school?
Do you play a musical instrument? I’m thinking that I remember that you played the ______. How long have you played? What do you like & not like about it? So, which instrument would you play if you could be awesome at one thing?
How are your parents? Are they up to anything interesting? What do you like about them? How do you connect with them (when, where, how)?
You’re a gamer, aren’t you? Let me guess…Halo? So how good are you?
What’s your favorite hobby? Tell me about that. What do you like about it?
Who are the friends you like to hang out with? Who would you go to for help? Who is the funniest kid you know? What makes him or her so funny?
In what area are you most successful? Do you like that? Do you think you might do more with that later? Is there a career in that area that you could pursue?
What’s your favorite: music, band, movie, food, restaurant, sport to watch, sport to play, athlete, TV show, vacation…
Why does grape flavor smell the way it is when actual grapes don’t taste or smell anything like it.
If there’s a speed of sound and a speed of light is there a speed of smell?
If a bunch of cats jump on top of each other, is it still called a dog pile?