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How do you have tough conversations with kids? Austin mom invented Convo Cards

Bright Littles Convo Cards come with 100 questions in five different topics.

Parents might not be sure how to have a conversation about racism, equality, justice, freedom and other topics with their kids. How do you even begin the conversation?

That's what Austin mom Tara Miko Ballentine was experiencing with her daughter, Poppy, who is 5. 

"I always want to try to be a mom that hits things straight on, but what's the next step?" Ballentine says. "I want her to be aware of the world but find a way to participate in it."

Last year was challenging for parents navigating the news with their kids, from the pandemic to the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd to a presidential election that further divided voters.

Tara Miko Ballentine was inspired by the questions her daughter, Poppy, would ask.

Ballentine took stock of the books on her daughter's shelves and thought she could do better. She also realized that story time at bedtime might not be the best time for deep conversations with a 5-year-old. "It's not a teachable moment," Ballentine says.

She went looking for tools that would help spark a conversation and really didn't find any, so she created her own and a company to go with it.

Bright Littles' Convo Cards come in a boxed set of 100 cards with questions on them and 25 cards with activities to do. The questions and activities cover five subjects: diversity, health, safety, nature and self. A box is $25 and available at brightlittles.com

Bright Littles Convo Cards sell for $25 and come with 100 question cards and 25 activities.

The creation of the Bright Littles came at a perfect time as Ballentine's marketing company, FNCH, which mostly handles restaurants, saw a slowdown in business because of the pandemic. Bright Littles has become the test case for FNCH on how to build and launch a brand. Ballentine went back to her roots, which include selling handmade jewelry and being the owner of Happy Hemp, which marketed hemp products to Whole Foods.

For Convo Cards, Ballentine tested out the questions and activities with other moms as well as with people with backgrounds in education.

In the diversity section, some of the questions include: What are some ways you can solve problems with your friends? How can we make people feel included? How can you stand up for someone?

Under safety, cards ask: Why shouldn't people run around the pool? If someone you don't know tries to get you to come with them, what should you do?

It's all the questions and conversations parents mean to have with kids but sometimes don't get around to. 

"It's opening the conversation," Ballentine says of the cards. She designed them for ages 4 and up, but the conversations families have will depend on the age of the kids. 

Ballentine says that the answers Poppy gives now will be different when she's 6, which means the cards can be used again and again.

The cards are interactive. Poppy likes to pick out a card and hand it to Ballentine to get the conversation started.

Ballentine envisions families using them at dinner as a conversation starter, or during car rides. She recently took them with her on a family camping trip.

The cards also are not limited to children, she says. This could be a way to have a multigenerational discussion without having to tiptoe around the conversation. "The card's asking the question," Ballentine says. "I'm not asking it." 

The next step for Convo Cards is to translate them into Spanish.

Nicole Villalpando writes about parenting for the American-Statesman. She can be reached at nvillalpando@statesman.com.

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