Tips for Getting Your Child to Talk About School
At Carousel of Languages, we know that positive early experiences, and warm, loving relationships are key factors in your child’s brain growth, language acquisition, social-emotional development, and more.
Though foreign language exposure is our specialty, Carousel’s holistic program is about much more than words! Our joyful and nurturing whole-child approach ensures that your child is never just practicing a language, or rehearsing rote vocabulary, but learning to communicate and relate in meaningful ways.
Through classic children’s songs like If You’re Happy and You Know It, activities like Mr. Potato Head and Mat Person, dramatic play, fun props like our emotion masks and toy microphones, and traditional themes such as All About Me, children learn to talk about their feelings, likes and dislikes, to express opinions and discuss experiences. They learn to take turns speaking, and listen to each other, become confident expressing themselves in front of a group, and encouraging one another to do the same. They grow in emotional intelligence, learning to recognize and understand other people’s feelings, experience empathy, respond to the needs of others, and cultivate positive relationships.
The experts at VeryWellFamily.org explain that children who can identify, understand, and articulate how they’re feeling are less likely to express their needs and emotions through tantrums, and defiant or aggressive behaviors.*
We strive to set the tone for your young child’s entire education journey—to plant the seeds and develop the early skills that support a lifetime of healthy, happy relationships, deep connections, and important conversations.
Talking About School
Once your child starts school, he’s away from you for a big chunk of the day. As a parent, you’re eager to catch up and have engaging conversation about his amazing kid life!
But as most parents have experienced, whether your child is 3 or 13, getting him to talk about school can be a challenge.
He gets off the bus or into the car (or offline if learning remotely) and you say, “Hi, sweetie, how was school today?”
You get the same answer almost every time. “Fine.”
Not the scintillating tête-à-tête you were hoping for? Don’t worry, it’s totally normal.
Many kids do like to talk about their school day (or are at least willing) but they need the right prompt, the right moment, or the right environment…or maybe all three!
These conversations build trust between you and your child, helping her feel safe, loved, cared for, and confident. They may also yield important clues to all sorts of things going on in her life, especially if there are issues like anxiety about a certain class, or any difficult peer relationships.
The main goal is to connect, enjoy each other, and bond—to lay the groundwork for great communication in the years to come.
Tips to encourage your child to open up and tell you about their school day:
Children begin programs and classes, even full-day school, very young. It’s important to create an atmosphere from the very beginning for the kinds of conversations you want to be having forever—even when they’re sulky teenagers.
Try not to ask, how was your day?
Most children, if asked a question that invites a one-word answer, will give a one-word reply.
Ask open-ended questions
Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, or even a single word. There’s no right or wrong answer, but your child needs to think, describe, provide details, articulate opinions, and express feelings. This kind of question nurtures speech and language development, creativity, independence, and memory.
Not every day feels like “something to write home about.” But if you ask detailed questions about specific aspects of the day, you’ll usually get better information and have a more enriching conversation. Try to vary your questions frequently so your child doesn’t get bored or give a generic answer.
Especially as your child gets older and more independent, stay familiar with his schedule, and any special events (assemblies, pep rallies, field trips, science fair, changing themes/units, etc.) so you can start with the facts and ask pertinent, topical questions.
Ask a trusted teacher about your child’s interests in school. You may be surprised to discover that your math whiz has caught the drama bug, or the kid who claims she only likes recess is a robotics buff.
Choose your time wisely
After a long day filled with expectations, challenges, and putting their best face forward all the time, kids are tired, and sometimes feel a bit depleted. Very young or especially sensitive children might be verging on meltdown. They need love, validation, reassurance, and some time to decompress. Know your child’s signals of exhaustion vs. readiness to engage. She’s more apt to shut down if she thinks she’ll be bombarded with questions the moment she gets home. Wait at least an hour after school before inquiring about the day.
Family mealtime can be a wonderful opportunity for everyone to share something. Try playing Best and Worst. Everyone takes a turn telling about the best moment of their day and the worst. This highlights the good things, while validating their experience of the tough parts. It can be a deep, revealing, and supportive bonding ritual.
Recharge with a snack
A mom friend revealed that when her child first started kindergarten she thought he hated it! She was worried. Every day after school he was silent, grumpy, and wilted. Then one day, she brought him a bottle of water and a healthy granola bar at pick-up. Within a few minutes he was all smiles, skipping along as they walked home, telling her about the fun he’d had. He just needed to refuel.
Get the ball rolling by talking about your own experience
Start a conversation about something that happened in your day, or tell a story you remember from when you were in your child’s grade.
Make it playful and fun – especially for a little one
Get your child talking by leading with something silly. On a hot sunny day, you could say, “I bet you built a great snowman during recess today!” “Mommy! Not a snowman – a sandcastle!” “Oh, a SANDCASTLE. Of course. How big was it? Who did you build it with?”
When your child starts telling you about their day, try to give your full attention, and let them know they have it by repeating back key phrases to draw out more information. “We had art today.” “Oh you had art class? Wow. I know that’s your favorite. Tell me about what you made.”
Don’t just sit there
Some children open up when they don’t feel “on the spot” but are engaged in a pleasant shared activity. Take a walk or bike ride, build with blocks, wash the car, cook together, draw or paint, play a game, and let the conversation emerge.
Don't force it
It’s okay for your child to have a day when she doesn’t feel like chatting. Unless you have a serious concern to address right away, give her a little space, and try again tomorrow.
Try these 10 Great Conversation Starters!
1. What made you laugh today?
2. Who did you sit with at lunch / play with at recess / partner with on an assignment?
3. What book did Mr. Smith read to you today? What was your favorite part?
4. What are 3 things you love about your best friend?
5. If you could tell your teacher what to do tomorrow, what would you want to learn about for a whole day?
6. Tell me about one kind or helpful thing you did today.
7. What’s the most surprising / interesting thing you heard today?
8. If you were the principal, what would you do the same / different?
9. If the School Fairy gave you three wishes, what would they be?
10. What assignment/lesson/quiz did you feel most/least confident about today?