This is a sponsored post on behalf of Learning Resources. As always, all opinions remain 100% my own. For more ways to ask your kid, “How was school today?” be sure to check out why we think playing school is just as important as the REAL thing this month over on the Learning Resources blog!
Your kids race off the bus, into your arms, and no matter their mood, the answer to the daily question of “How was school today?” is almost ALWAYS the same. “Fine.” One of the hardest things for me as a parent since my oldest left preschool is getting a true sense for how she’s doing at school… I’ve discovered I can get a lot better insights by simply swapping “How was school today?” for the easy methods and questions below.
10 Ways to Really Find Out “How was school today?”
“Fine.” “Good.” “I don’t want to talk about it right now.” If your lucky… some days, you only get a shrug or a grunt.
Are those the only answers you get when you ask your child how their day was at the end of it??? Since my daughter started kindergarten this year, I no longer get the daily download from her teacher at pick-up about the events of the day. I don’t know many of her new classmates, or even some of her teachers for specials. But after the first few months into this new realm, I’ve discovered a few really good ways to get her talking about her day…
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Instead of asking a question that invites a single word or yes/no answer, ask more open-ended questions. Ever since the kids were old enough to talk, at the end of every day, I’ve always asked them: What was your favorite part of today?What was your favorite part of today?Click To Tweet
This big picture question allows them to tell me whatever they want to tell me about their day… and over time, the things they talk about and consistenly name as favorites are almost as telling as the things they don’t!
Let Them Pretend ‘Playing School’
This month on the Learning Resources blog I shared about the importance of encouraging your kids pretend play, especially playing school. Playing school at home allows your kids to re-enact their day – they will talk about their friends, and the things they are learning. You may even catch the phrases and tactics their teacher uses for classroom and behavior management.
You don’t even have to play school with them necessarily – but have your ears up when they do. Since kids naturally imitate what they see and experience during their day, it’s a great way to get those much needed insights into what’s going on in the classroom. Learn what to listen and watch for while they are playing school here.
Learn School Routine and Schedule
Every school and class has its own weekly routines. Attend orientations, opportunities to Meet the Teacher and Back to School nights to familiarize yourself with your child’s school environment, as well as their daily schedule and weekly activities. Learn what volunteer opportunities there are for you to be present in the classroom and the school. Our school offers mystery reader sign-ups, room parents, PTO opportunities, as well as volunteers for lunch and recess duty daily.
Not only will this help you fill in the gaps as they talk about their day, it will make you a more informed discussion participant and allow you to…
Ask More Specific Questions
Instead of just asking “How was school today?”, knowing what happens day to day at school will allow you to ask more specific questions. You can ask about what they made in art today or what book they checked out from the library. Being more specific helps avoid the minimal, yes/no response as well.
Even if you don’t know the specifics about their day, you can still ask more targetted general questions. Try asking “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” or “What did you play or who did you play with at recess?” instead of “How was school today?”
Keep Tabs on Their Interests
Kids are no different than adults – they enjoy talking about their favorite interests more than anything else. Notice what they voluntarily talk about regularly. What do they repeatedly say is their favorite part of every day? Take note of what kinds of books they check out from the library, the toys on their wishlists and how their interests are swayed over time and by new friendships.
Start conversations by asking questions about their interests to get them talking… then you can always transition the conversation to other areas.
Learn When Your Child Likes to Talk
Keeping tabs on their interests will help you learn what your child likes to talk about… but you may also observe they are more likely to talk at specific points of the day. At the end of the school day, right off the bus, your child may be exhausted and just need a brain break. Think about how you or your husband feels when you first walk in the door after a long day.
For many young children, when you force conversation, asking lots of questions with direct eye contact can be intimidating and make them close up. Some kids open up and talk more freely when they don’t have to be face to face. Maybe try taking a walk, walking side by side. Other kids might like to talk in the car. My daughter tends to want to talk when I’m tucking her in for bed at night. Sure, it may be her version of stalling, but it’s also one of the few times in the day when we can talk uninterrupted by her two younger siblings. Find your child’s favorite moments to open up, and seize those opportunities!
… And How They Like To ‘Talk’
Everyone communicates differently. Do you know how your child best expresses themselves? While some kids are talkers, others may be storytellers, writers or artists. Try using different mediums to communicate with your child, and you’ll be amazed at how they open up.
Open A Dialogue With Your Child’s Teacher
Just because you no longer see your child’s teacher(s) at pick-up and drop-off everyday doesn’t mean you can’t have a regular dialogue with them. My mom, a retired kindergarten teacher, used to tell parents at back to school night, “I’ll believe half of what they say happens at home, if you believe half of what they say happens at school.”
If you are ever concerned about what your child is telling you about what’s taking place at school – in the classroom or with friends – reach out to your child’s teacher to clarify the situation or make her aware of what your child is reporting. All teachers are reachable by email these days, and you can always schedule time with them through your school office as well.
Know Your Kids Friends… and Their Parents
One of the hardest parts of my daughter starting kindergarten was not knowing all the kids she was in class with everyday. Unlike preschool, I don’t have regular Parent of the Day duties, or see and meet all the kids and parents in the hall at pick up and drop off everyday. When I ask, “How was school today?”, within the first week she was telling me all about her new best friend and asking if she could come for a playdate… someone I didn’t know and whose parents didn’t know me.
Volunteering in the school is a great way to get to know the children in your child’s class, and attending school events (like Back to School night and holiday gatherings) are a great way to meet the parents too. Knowing your kids friends and their parents and making them part of the conversation is a great way to gain different perspectives on what’s going on at school and fill in any gaps your child may leave out.
Sometimes as parents we do too much talking… and sometimes when our kids want to talk we are too busy to listen. When your child wants to talk, whenever it’s feasible, set aside what you are doing to listen. Those few minutes when they are 5 or 6 to tell you about their day, may make all the difference in them coming to you when they are 12 or 13 to tell you about their struggles with friends or school.Sometimes kids talk more if you just listenClick To Tweet
Sometimes, if we stay quiet, kids will talk all on their own. Listen when they play with their siblings, or with their friends. Listen to what they talk about with their friends when you carpool. And listen to what you hear from their teacher, administrators and fellow parents too.
How do you talk to your kids about school everyday? Do you have any great techniques to get them talking? When was a time that your child shared a struggle at school and how were you able to help them through it?
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