30 Small Talk Topics for Playdates

This post is Part I of a two-part series on making small talk on playdates.  Today’s post focuses on talking to the moms you just met and barely know.

As an introvert, one of my greatest struggles is how to make small talk.  We introverts don’t do well with small talk typically – it’s hard for us to talk about the weather or contribute to a discussion among a large group of people.  Get us one on one in a deep discussion, and we thrive!  But when you’re a new mom trying to meet other moms, you have to start with square one, and that is small groups and play dates rife with small talk.

I actually have found that the small group environment is pleasant as an introvert.  There is usually some structure to the discussion, some focus – maybe one group focuses on baby development, and another might be a Bible study.  But when you venture away from the group – when it’s just you and one or two moms, what do you say?  How do you get to know them so that, later on down the road, you can start having those deep, one-on-one conversations that introverts thrive on?

Finding the Right Words to Say

We have a game we play in my family.  Whenever we are on the way to a family gathering, we come up with three questions to ask each person.  Some of these questions are consistent go-tos from person to person, gathering to gathering: “How is work going?”  But we also think about the various individuals and ask questions tailored to what is going on in their lives.  “I saw that there’s a Star Wars convention in town this weekend.  Did you get a chance to go?”  Questions should be open ended and reflect a sincere interest in the other person.  You should focus more on talking about the other person than about yourself.  And you should listen to their answers!

Since it can be hard enough to brainstorm three questions when you know the person, I thought I would do the hard work for you.  Here are thirty questions you can ask at your next play date to keep the conversation going.

For the Mom You Just Met at the Playground

I cannot count the number of times I’ve taken Bugaboo to the playground in the middle of the day and other moms are there.  I should be elated – these mothers appear to be stay at home moms like myself, have young children, and probably live nearby.  This is a great place to start making new mom friends.  But how often do we simply look at the ground, focusing on our own children?  Here are some tips to break the ice at the playground (indoor or outdoor), library, doctor’s office, or anywhere else where you find yourself standing next to another mother of young children.

1.  How old is your child?

Be careful that this innocent question isn’t a hidden “Mommy War” moment.  If your children are both running around and appear to be interested in playing with each other, it’s a great way to break the ice and can lead to more discussions about children.  Don’t use it if you think it will turn into a “My baby is developing faster than yours” issue.  For instance, if two children appear the same age but one is barely toddling and one is climbing the slide on his own, asking about age may bring up some negative feelings.

2.  What’s your child’s name?

You can follow this question up with some comment on the name – “How cute!” or “My niece has that same name!”  If your new friend doesn’t mirror this question back at you, just volunteer your baby’s name.

3.  Do you live nearby?

This is a great question that helps establish whether you can expect to see the mom again.  If the mom doesn’t live nearby, you can ask about where she is from, why she is in the area, and general interest topics about her place of origin.  If she does live nearby, you can say that you will likely see her at the park more often, thus hinting that perhaps you are interested in getting to know her better.

4.  It’s a lovely day to be at the park, isn’t it?

You can almost never go wrong talking about the weather.  If everything else is failing, keep the weather questions coming.  “Did you see we’re supposed to get snow this weekend?  Can you believe it?”  “Did you have any tree limbs fall into your yard during this last storm?”  Although it is generally preferable to talk about the other person, you can use weather anecdotes to try to bring the other mom out of her shell.  “I’m glad we didn’t have any damage to our roof from the hail storm last Friday.  At our last house we had to replace the roof, and it was such an ordeal!”

5.  Do you come here often?

Try not sounding like a stalker.  Asking if the other mom comes often can be a way to find out more about the park / location and how accessible it is for young children.  If the mom doesn’t come often, you can move on to asking about other places in the area that are kid friendly.

Another advantage of the question is to be able to talk about your mom friend’s life and schedule.  Perhaps she is only at the park because her kid is out of school for the day; she’s not a stay at home mom and probably won’t be back at this time.  On the other hand, she may come every day just to get out of the house for a few hours.  This will help you decide if you want to pursue the friendship further.

6.  What coffee are you drinking?

If your new friend doesn’t have a coffee, you can bring up the coffee topic yourself.  “Have you tried the new pumpkin spice latte at Dunkin Donuts yet?”  This can lead to some small talk about favorite coffee joints, coffee vs. tea, etc.  “Have you tried cold brew yet?  It’s all the rage this summer.”  “Is that iced coffee from Starbucks?  Have you tried the coffee they sell in the bottles at the store?”

7.  Have you heard the latest local news?

Don’t get political.  However, if you live in a small town, there are likely to be conversation topics of local interest.  Peruse the local news website before venturing out.  Does your new friend follow the local high school football team?  Was she waylaid by the homecoming parade last week?  Watch out for the construction on Main Street – it’s a doozy!

8.  Have you always lived in the area?

If your new friend has moved to the area, this can spark further conversation.  You can ask about where she came from originally and if she plans to go back, if she sees her family often, and you can find out if she or her husband have jobs that require them to move around a lot.  If she’s from another area, you can offer advice on area attractions, restaurants, and customs.

9.  Do you have a busy day ahead of you? / Has it been a busy day for you?

All moms feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Here is a polite way to invite your acquaintance to vent without sounding nosy.  It’s also a great way to begin to trade mommy advice and stories.

10.  Do you have any plans for the weekend?

This is a great follow up question to the weather – especially if the weather will be nice this weekend.  You can trade weekend plans or ideas for what to do for the weekend.  Again, you can give her the opportunity to vent (or vent yourself) about all the chores she has to catch up on.

11.  What a lovely sweater!  Where did you get it?

Ok, so as a literal accountant and introvert, I don’t always have the best people skills.  Here’s the secret I learned that boggled my mind, the secret that extroverts already know: you can lie!  You don’t have to like her sweater.  It could be the ugliest thing in the world.  But you can say you love it, and it can start a conversation!  Look for an item in her possession that appears more unique than the rest.  You could also ask about her stroller or baby carrier – as a curious mom looking for good advice.

Use observations of your new friend to help guide the conversation.  If her shirt has words on it – such as a sports team or geographic location – use those to spark a conversation.  “Oh, have you been to Alaska?”  “It’s been a tough season for the Bears, right?”

You can also use this strategy to attract people to come talk to you.  If you wear a team shirt or jacket, especially if it’s not the “local” team, you will often find strangers approaching you to engage in conversation.  Balance your desire to start conversations with your desire to look nice.

12.  What brings you here today?

This may seem like a silly question at a park, but there are other places you may run into another mom.  If it was the playground that obviously brought your mom friend out, you can still rephrase this question to be a conversation starter.  What part of the park does her kid love the most?  What brings her to this park as opposed to others (a variation of the “Do you live nearby” question)?

13.  Isn’t this such a fun age?

As you moms sit and watch your children play, you can comment on what they are doing.  Once your baby is old enough to walk around a playground and explore, I promise she will be doing fun things that will make you want to comment.  Try to comment on your friend’s child.  “Oh how cute!”

14.  Are you a Cubs / Bears fan?

Even if your new friend isn’t wearing a team jersey, you can bring up sports.  Start by asking about the major teams in the area, and focus on the season we’re in.  Have a marginal knowledge of how well the team is doing, and also how well its rivals are doing!  If you live in Chicago and find out your acquaintance is a Buffalo Bills fan, you can say, “Oh, I don’t follow them.  How are they doing?”  If you share an interest in a sports team you can ask if your friend has been to any games recently or if she intends to go.  You can even use this to dive into deeper material – does she expect her son to play football?

15.  Do you know of any fun things to do in the area?

It doesn’t matter if your mom friend is local or not, she may have done some research.  I cannot believe how much useful advice I get from other moms, even after over a year of carting Bugaboo to every kid friendly place imaginable.

These are some great questions to get started.  If you feel like you may have a connection with the mom, ask if she’d like to arrange to meet at that same park on a specific day and time.  The next time you arrange to meet, perhaps look into meeting at a new and unique location.  Or keep your friend your “park buddy” – someone you can expect to meet at the park and talk to about life.  Start bringing snacks or coffee every now and then, especially as the weather gets cold.  You can even bring books to exchange.

For the Mom You Just Met at a Small Group

Small groups are a great way to meet other moms.  I attended many small groups my first year of being a mom.  Some were through the local hospital, Northwestern Medicine.  Others were Bible Studies.  One problem with organized small groups is that they may be too organized.  You may all meet, go around in a circle to bring up specific discussion topics, and then disperse.  It’s possible to meet with the same moms for a year and not really get the chance to know them.  There are a few ways to fix this.  One way is to ask to meet in groups of two or three for play dates.  Another is to arrange an “extracurricular” meeting of the small group – a more social gathering.  (You may have to play hostess for these events, remembering that there will be lots of small children of various ages involved).

Whether you are talking to each other before or after the group meets or trying to engaging in small talk at a group event, you may not know where to begin with these friends.  Here are some questions that are a little more personal that you may ask a mom whom you expect to have a relationship with.

1.  Are you going back to work?

Construct this question to fit the situation.  If you’re in a breastfeeding support group, many of the new moms may be going back to work full time or part time after the baby is three months old.  On the other hand, in a daytime Bible study, it might be assumed that moms are stay at home moms.  This is not necessarily the case – many moms work part time or work from home and are available for daytime mom gatherings.

2.  What did you do before the baby was born?

Or, “What do you do?”  For most people, their careers can define them.  Even if your mom friend is a stay at home mom, she may be proud of or passionate about the work she did before her baby was born, and she may enjoy talking about it.

3.  What does your husband do?

I recently learned that in some cultures it is not appropriate to ask what a person or their husband does for a living because it serves as a way to pin a person to his or her social strata.  Americans tend to be less cautious about these questions, but try to ask this one with respect.  Asking a woman what her husband does is not about demeaning her work or finding out her social standing.  It can help you to understand more about her life: does her husband work a lot of hours?  does he have to travel a lot?  does his job give hints to his personality?

4.  Does your family live in the area?

This is a simple enough question.  Similar to the questions you might ask the mom at the park, you are just looking for a topic that may branch out into a wider conversation.  If the family lives in the area, do they help a lot with the kids?  Do they see each other a lot – perhaps with large family gatherings or small quiet dinners?  If the family lives away, how often do they get to see them?  Does your friend have to travel “back home” a lot, or do the grandparents come to stay?

As a mom whose family lives out of state, I can really relate to this topic.  Although I like to keep the conversation focused on my new friend, this question gives me an opportunity to tell them where I’m coming from as well and why family connections are so important.

5.  How did you hear about this group?

Finding out how your friend came to be at the group will divulge a little more information about her background that you can use to keep a conversation going.  Maybe she delivered her baby at the same hospital as you.  Perhaps she was having trouble breastfeeding.  She may have a friend already in the group that she can introduce you to.

By the way, try not to get discouraged if your group appears to already have pre-formed friendships or cliques.  I have found that group dynamics are always changing – new moms will come, old moms will go.  Some moms are joined at the hip, others are open to new friendships.

6.  Have you seen this TV show?  This movie?

It may take a little bit of verbal magic to work questions like this into a conversation smoothly.  However, once you have, you’ve opened up a world of possible conversation topics.  Don’t judge your friend if she doesn’t have the same taste in entertainment as you.  In fact, it’s better if she says she has not seen the show, because you can ask her what she likes to watch.  You can also outright ask her, “So what great movies have you seen recently?”  “I’m looking for a family friendly movie to watch this weekend – do you have any suggestions?”

7.  This is delicious!  May I have the recipe?

If your small group gathering involves food at all, this can be a great conversation starter.  Ask for the recipes of food you love and be prepared to have it told to you rapid fire.  Your friend may be flattered you asked.  She will tell you she loves to bring it to gatherings because it’s so easy to make!  You can counter with, “I never know what to bring to these things,” or “I never know what to feed my family.”  Food is such a universal experience, you could talk about it for a long time.

Try to avoid judging your friends’ food choices, even if you think you are being helpful.  For instance, don’t say, “You know, I cut out gluten from my diet, and it changed my life!”  Rather, “These cupcakes are gluten free, and I’m surprised how nice they taste!”  If your friend mentions a special diet, ask for more information about it!

8.  Do you know any good babysitters?  Dog sitters?

For women in your small group, you probably expect that they have similar life experiences and standards as you.  Therefore, you assume they would look for the same qualities in someone who was going to take care of their baby or pet.  You don’t have to act on their advice, but it may be good information to keep handy.  You are also turning them into an expert, which will make them feel good inside.

9.  Do you have any pets?

For some reason, I can’t find many other moms who actually have pets.  This makes me hesitant to bring them to my house for play dates.  But if you find yourself with another dog owner, you can build on the conversation.

10.  Where did you go to college?

Perhaps you already asked if your friend was from the area (from the questions above).  That doesn’t mean she went to college nearby.  It’s fun to reminisce about our college years!

11.  Do you do Twitter / Facebook / Instagram?

On the one hand, you can ask your friend about her social media accounts in order to “follow” her.  More interestingly, though, you can use it to start a conversation about the role of social media in all of our lives.  For instance, you can say, “Do you do Twitter?”  If she says “Yes” you can say, “I just can’t seem to figure it out.  What do you tweet about?”  or if she says “No” you can say, “Me neither.  I just don’t know about spending all this time on social media.  Do you think it’s good for society?”  And all of the sudden you have yourself in one of those deep conversations that introverts crave without being pushy, creepy, or political!

12.  Tell me about your faith.

Here is a question to approach cautiously.  If you are in a Bible Study, this is a simple enough topic: were you born into this faith?  were you converted?  does your family practice this faith?  The Bible Study is designed for us to talk about our faith, and so these questions are perfectly acceptable.  If your small group is secular, it may be a little harder to broach the subject, but it’s still an acceptable topic.  The best way is probably to ask if your friend attends church, and if so which one.  If your friend answers in the negative, then the conversation is likely done.  Don’t get into a religious argument.  If your friend does attend church or hold to a different faith from you, it is a great opportunity to find out more about another faith culture!

13.  Do you have any prayer requests?

This is a hard question for me to ask, and it mostly pertains to a Bible Study small group.  But it is also a great way to show your friend that you care about her and are concerned about what is going on in her life.  This is a way you may break down barriers and find out how she is doing on a deeper level.  Remember to follow through and pray for her!  And then the next time you see her, you can ask how things are going related to her request.

14.  So what’s the funniest thing your child has done recently?

Everyone loves a good toddler story, and people love to talk about their children.  Respectfully listen when your friend tells you a funny anecdote of her child.  Resist the urge to “one-up” her with a story about your own child.  In fact, don’t even talk about your baby unless specifically asked to do so.

15.  What’s been keeping you busy these days?

This is a great, broad way to ask about your friend’s hobbies and interests, work-life balance, travel, charity, etc.  In other words, the sky is the limit as to what your friend may respond with!  If I were to answer this question, I might say, “Well we seem to be busy every day between running errands and attending small group.  Bugaboo loves to go to the library.  And I have been reading this great book…”  You see – I talked about life in general, about my baby, and about my hobby of reading.  My friend could pick up on any of those answers to ask a follow up to.  Another mother might answer entirely differently.

So there you have it – 30 ways to dive into a conversation with a mom you barely know!

What’s your favorite conversation topic with your mom friends?

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