The conversation I have with my kids after school usually goes something like this:
Me: How was school today?
Child 1: Fine.
Me: Just fine? Okay. How about you? How was school?
Child 2: Fine.
If this sounds familiar, it’s not just you. Trying to get information out of young children at the end of a school day is near impossible. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until one day I happened to ask my son a question about the library and he went into this whole story and didn’t stop talking all through dinner. I actually had to stop him at one point and tell him to eat before his food got cold.
That night, I learned the key to getting kids to engage and tell you about their day is to ask more specific questions. Think about their favourite subjects and interests and form questions based around that. For instance, my guys love gym class, so I usually ask what they did in gym and I end up hearing all about who won the running race or who had the funniest dance moves. One day I even heard a story about a kid who got suspended because of something he did in gym class. (That’s a whole other story!)
Here are a few questions that I’ve found always get the most response from my children. You know, more than just a one-word answer.
What did your friends have in their lunch today?
This one is fun but can sometimes backfire if one of their friends has something sweet and they ask why I never put stuff like that in their lunch. Regardless, I risk it because it’s usually a good way to get them talking. And if I’m honest, I also like to get new and fresh ideas for their lunches! (Besides cupcakes and pudding, of course!)
Have you gone to the library lately? What books did you pick?
I ask this one mainly because I like to hear what books they choose. It’s interesting to hear what type of books they’re drawn to when I’m not there giving them suggestions that I think they’d like. It’s how I learned my youngest was interested in graphic novels more than actual novels. As long as they’re reading something, I’m happy!
What did you do at recess?
What kid doesn’t love recess?! I like this question because I usually get to hear the names of their friends and it’s always nice to know who they’re hanging out with and what they’re doing. I usually get a very animated description of their game of “manhunt” or who cheated during soccer.
Did you make anyone laugh/smile today?
This one is fun. I mean, sometimes I get a flat out “no”, but other times one of them will tell me about a funny joke they told their friend and they’ll re-tell it over dinner and go into a whole laughing fit again. Or sometimes I’ll get a nice story about something nice they did for one of their friends. One day, my oldest told me he went and sat on the buddy bench with a boy who was sitting there and looked sad. That made me melt, and it’s so nice to hear them reflect on their own acts of kindness.
What was the best part of your day?
This one is my favourite question. Now, if your kids are anything like mine, they’ll likely say lunch or recess, but I push them to give me another answer. One day I learned it was a classmate’s birthday. Another day I learned my oldest rocked his Google presentation! I love hearing about the things that make them happy or proud.
What’s your go-to after school question? Please share in the comments below! (I’d love to mix it up!)