When my eldest child began school, I fell into the same trap as every other new parent. I’d be there, eagerly waiting by the classroom door, as she struggled her way out at the end of the day, with a heavy bag nearly dragging on the ground and a weary look.
But before we’d even reached the car, I would pounce.
How was your day?
What did you do?
Did you eat all your lunch?
Did you make any friends?
My daughter would respond with a blank stare. Sometimes she’d give me a shrug and a grunt. Or, if I was lucky, a half-hearted ‘fine’ or ‘okay’. But mostly, she would offer me only silence.
My usually effervescent and chatty daughter was shutting down. What was going on?
When I eventually stopped and listened to myself through her ears, I was shocked. I was not only insisting that she sum up six busy hours into just a few sentences, but I wasn’t giving my child any time to process an overwhelming day at school.
My questions were too vague, too open-ended, and too easy to answer with one word.
So I challenged myself to start thinking of some more inspiring conversation starters. And enough of them so my questioning didn’t become predictable!
40 Questions to Ask Your Child Instead of “How Was School Today?”
1. Who did you sit next to in class?
2. What was the best thing in your lunch box?
3. Tell me about someone who made you laugh today.
4. Teach me something you learnt today that I don’t know.
5. What did your teacher do well today?
6. Was anyone away from your class today?
7. What books did you choose from the library?
8. Who did you eat your lunch with?
9. What do you think I did today while you were at school?
10. Is there anyone in your class you don’t like to play with?
11. Tell me about something funny your teacher said or did.
12. Did anything make you feel sad or worried today?
13. Tell me about something you did today that was helpful.
14. Who would you like to be sitting next to in class?
15. Who did you play with at lunchtime?
16. What was the easiest thing you had to do today?
17. Did you make anyone laugh today?
18. Did anything make you feel frustrated or angry today?
19. What work did you do today that you are most proud of?
20. What was the best thing that happened today?
21. Were there any times that you felt bored today?
22. Was there anyone on their own who you invited into your game?
23. What was the hardest rule to follow today?
24. Was there anything that you didn’t understand in class today?
25. Which person in your class is just like you?
26. Was there anyone being unkind in the playground?
27. What could your teacher do better tomorrow?
28. Did you fill anyone’s bucket today?
29. What was the worst thing that happened today?
30. What games did you play at lunchtime?
31. Did anyone in your class need some time-out?
32. Who had the best packed lunch box today?
33. Tell me about a new word you learnt today.
34. Which person in your class is very different from you?
35. What was the best book you read today?
36. Are there any school rules you would change if you could?
37. Is there anyone in your class you’d like to make friends with?
38. How would you rate your day on a scale of 1 – 10?
39. Did today go by super-fast or really-really-slowly?
40. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
But asking the right questions, I also realised, was only part of the puzzle.
Children firstly need time and space to recharge after school. Then they need time to answer your questions, without interruption. And kids also love to know that you’re interested in what they’re telling you, so ask them to tell you more!
Let them safely express, and then support, any strong feelings that your questions might evoke.
And, finally, thank your child for sharing their day with you. When you show your sincere appreciation for their conversation, they’ll continue to reward you with many more!
Are there any other questions you would add to my list?
If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Facebook or Twitter below.
PS. I’d love to meet you on Facebook: here.
And for more inspirational tales of motherhood and methods, delivered by email, be sure to follow my blog.