How to Have a Real Conversation with Your Kids




Parent: “How was school today?”
Child: “Good.”
Parent: “What did you learn today?”
Child: “Stuff.”

Does the above dialogue sound familiar to you? For many parents and caregivers, finding out about your child’s day can feel like an uphill battle, often met with vague, non-descript responses. One way to make this exchange more exciting and engaging for you and your child is to turn it into a fun game. I call this game “The M&M game”, however, M&M’s can be substituted for something similar such as Skittles.

CandyMaterials Needed:

  • 1 bag of M&M’s (or Skittles)
  • 1 bag (such as a paper lunch bag or small Ziploc bag)

What to do:

The parent/caregiver will place a pre-determined amount of M&M’s in a bag, pass the bag around, and each participant will reach in and pull out a (small) handful of M&M’s. It is important to set the expectation that there must be a few M&M’s for everyone, so if a child takes too large of an amount, you can simply instruct them to pour them back in and try again. I encourage parent/s to participate in this activity too, as this serves as a great forum for families to share information with each other productively. This also provides parent/s the opportunity to model the types of behaviors and responses they would like to see their child/ren demonstrate during this game.

Once everyone has a small handful of M&M’s, they can lay them out on a plate or clean surface. It can also be helpful to group all of the same colors together, and add up how many of each color you have. Everyone will likely have different amounts of M&M’s—which is fine! (and to be expected).

Now, the parent will explain to the child/ren what each color represents:

Red– Anger
Yellow– Optimism or Happiness
Blue– Sadness
Green– Jealousy
Orange– Frustrated
Brown– “free share”

Writing these down on a piece of paper for all to view can be a helpful visual.

Someone will go first, and choose which color to start with. For example, “Yellow.” Then, you will take turns sharing specific things that made you happy and/or optimistic. Depending on the age and development of the child, feel free to provide more synonyms for each color. For younger kids, keep it as simple as possible. The number of things you share will be dependent on the number of ‘yellows’ you have. For example, if you have 3 yellow M&M’s, you will be sharing 3 different examples of things that made you happy.

You will continue through this process until every color has been addressed. If you and/or your child do not have a particular color, you can place one (no more than 3) on your child’s plate. Once everyone is finished sharing, you can eat your m&ms! The anticipation of eating this treat can help serve as a motivator for your child to remain engaged in this activity and provide genuine and more detailed responses.


• Pre-determine how many m&ms you place in the bag, as children will likely want to take heaping handfuls knowing they will likely get to eat them—and who wouldn’t want as many m&m’s as possible!? Therefore, having a smaller, specified amount to pull from will be helpful. This way, if your child takes them all (or most), you can vocalize that there needs to be enough for everyone and his/her portion therefore must be smaller.

• Participate with your child/ren. This activity provides opportunities to work on other important pro-social skills such as turn-taking, how to decide who gets to go first, listening and patience.

• Brown is listed as “free share.” Here, you (and your child/ren) get to decide what they would like to share.