Grinning and ready to chat about school

Conversation starters for kids – how to get yours to talk about their day

I love having a chatty son. N loves to talk (I wonder where he gets that from), although he does pick his moments. Sometimes he’ll be quiet and focused, other times he’ll whitter on about nothing. Sometimes I tune it out (naughty mummy) although he does usually notice and pulls me up on it. But there’s always one thing that parents want to know about and not all children are forthcoming about sharing. Their school day (or their day at preschool or nursery).

Having been in nearly full time childcare since he was 11.5 months old, I’ve always been used to finding out about N’s day. His day nursery would provide a daily journal update, or when he was in pre-school/pre-reception room I’d get a verbal update. His nursery school didn’t really do a pick up handover, but generally a quick chat would let me know how he was getting on if wanted.  What sort of conversations starters for kids work best?

11 tips to get kids to talk about their day - Bubbablue and me

But starting school in reception, you soon realise you get no information back. Actually I tell a lie, our school isn’t bad. At least it informs us at the start of the week what each class will be studying that week in literacy and maths, sometimes linking it into their topic work. Then when they get phonics worksheets and reading books coming home, you’ve an idea about the key things they’re learning. With maths it was easy to see as well, because N would start doing counting methods he’d not done before. Like counting on his fingers, or moving items as he counted or sorted.

Thankfully N has always been quite keen to tell me about his day. While there are some days he won’t talk about it, mostly I can find out a lot of information. It might not always be useful or focused on school work and progress, but there’s always something to hear about.

When N was in reception I used to hear about which children were friends, what games they played, which children hogged certain activities (the tablet, or the magnetic shapes which seemed very popular), who was VIP for the day, who was naughty, and what stories they were listening to. N was really good at knowing what was going on and relaying that.

Going into year 1 N needs a bit more prompting. Probably because there’s a lot more learning than play going on, so there’s less room for him to process and remember what happened. It usually emerges in the end, but can take a couple of days.

Grinning and ready to chat about school

Conversation starters for kids after school

1. Choose your time carefully

Straight after school is a no-no for N. I can ask him how school went and it’ll range from good to ok. But he’ll rarely offer any more information than that. The best time is bedtime. I read him a story, then I ask him about his day. He’ll refuse to tell me until I’ve told him about mine, and then he’ll tell me. Sometimes information will emerge at other times. For example if something on tv or in conversation has prompted him, or if he’s making lego/drawing, it might reflect what they’ve been doing at school.

2. Share your day as well

Tit for tat always works for N. He likes to negotiate and bargain. Even though my days aren’t very interesting, to N they are. Sharing each other’s day will mean children learn that it’s normal to ask about someone’s day on getting home, starts conversation going and encourages support and empathy as a natural learned habit ready for when they have a family of their own.

3. Try open ended questions

Ask how, where, why, what rather than anything that can be answered monosyllabically, with a yes, no or grunt.

4. If you get nowhere with the questions, make a statement

Your statement could be a load of rubbish, or I find stating ‘I bet you don’t know what so and so was doing today’ works quite well. Telling them that their teacher was wear red trousers or there was a dog that came into the dinner hall today, will get them correcting you without realising it. Obviously this kind of thing works better with younger children than teens!

5. Find out what they’ll be studying that week in advance

Having the school tell us is great because when N says he can’t remember what they’ve done I can ask outright ‘what have you been learning about xyz?’ He’s always amazed even though I’ve told him school tell us on a Monday, but it does prompt his memory.

6. Ask about friendships and play

Don’t keep it all about the academic stuff. For social and emotional wellbeing (as well as being nosy about friendship groups), it’s good to encourage children to talk about these things. We know it’s human nature to know what’s going on around us with other people, and if you’re not in school much because you work, there’s the danger of FOMO as well. Children pick up a lot of the goings on and politics without agenda. To them it’s just fact. Just do take it with a pinch of salt sometimes.

I ask who he played with, who his friends were playing with today, what they played, where they played, who was naughty today as a start point.

7. Understand their routine

Most schools have set times they do assembly, literacy, maths, PE, clubs etc. If you know those, you’ve got prompts to ask about.

8. Lunch and food

Considering N loves his food, he can rarely remember what he eats for lunch, but he’ll know what colour band people are and who sat where, whether their sound level in the hall was too much which means they lose out on Friday seating freedom etc. If food is important to your children, it’s worth asking what they had, and what their friends had.

9. Point out the marks on their uniform.

If your child is anything like mind, they’ll not have a clean uniform on arriving home. Try asking what adventures or activities they were doing to make their mars.

10. Try the silent treatment

It might be juvenile, and go against making easy conversation, but saying they obviously want 30 minutes quiet time if they can’t remember their day might make them want to talk.
The alternative is speed talking – set the egg timer going and have 3-5 minutes each to talk.

11. Use toys to explain it

Lego, drawing, writing. If they don’t want to talk, then try encouraging them to draw what they’ve been doing. Or if they’re older, to keep a diary or blog. For older children you might not need or want to know everything, but writing it down can be a release and provide something to discuss rather than a direct conversation.

hot to get your child to talk about their day - Bubbablue and me

That’s my 11 tips to get your child to talk about their day. How do you get your children to talk about what they’ve been up to?

Why not take a look at these similar posts.

primary school years
train my son
school uniform rules

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  1. We talk about our days on the way home from school. Alice will tell us what she has done, I will her what Holly and I have been up to. It’s part of what we do now. I also get snippets throughout the rest of the day that she volunteers. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  2. I love to hear about my eldests day, I find consistency has been the key as she is 6 now and still tells me (mostly) on the way back from school as like you say I share my day and it has always just been what we do. I absolutely love it #sharingthebloglove

    1. It is lovely hearing from them what they do isn’t it? As you say, consistency and routine helps make it a habit. And they do seem to like the share for share.

  3. I’m still at the stage where I get a detailed report from nursery on all the day’s goings on, but Max is getting better at telling me about what he’s been up to. I’m definitely keeping these tips in mind for when he’s older as I’m sure once he starts school he’ll be far less good at remembering and letting me know! Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. N never needed to tell me at nursery so he wasn’t in the habit. Now it’s don’t remember, until he’s ready to tell me. The thing I can’t understand is how he never remembers what food he’s eaten when food seems to be so crucial to him!

  4. Some great tips. I love the suggestion to explaining your own day too. It’s hard to get anything out of her but I always try to ask her what made her laugh and I usually get something then!

  5. The first lesson I learnt as a parent of a child with a kid on the spectrum is to avoid asking. I don’t ask him how his day has been, I usually wait until a relaxing bath time to enquire as to what he did that day.

  6. That’s great advice. All I get is I don’t know or I can’t remember. I think I must be asking at the wrong time and asking the wrong way. Will be definitely trying this out next week 🙂

    1. Ah yes, I get that too. Prompts help, but also stating something totally ridiculous helps. Unless of course they love to trick and make up stories – it might backfire then.

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