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?
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.
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.
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?
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