Monday, September 25, 2017

What Did You Do In School Today?

Our children spend long hours away from us at school.  Naturally, we are eager to know about their experiences:  are they happy, well-liked, understood, appreciated? ; are they challenged, engaged in learning, finding new interests?  Many parents eagerly await their children at home and ask, "How was school today?  What did you do?", only to hear "Good.  Nothing.".  Huh?

There are a few children who recall the day's events from start to finish and are happy to share with their parents, but they are in the minority.  By the time most children get home from school, they are done.  They're ready for the next part of the day.  Children are completely invested in the present moment.  Their energy is spent on the activities of now, with minimal thought or interest in back then.  Yet there are many good reasons, aside from our own curiosity, to help them review their school day.  One reason is that reviewing the day helps children acquire a concept of time.  Putting the day's events in order teaches sequencing and forms a framework for understanding the parts of a day.  In addition, mentally revisiting interesting activities strengthens the learning that was gained; sort of like reviewing for a test.  As a child recalls building a zoo with blocks, she remembers finding the right shapes and animals, the give-and-take involved with another child in completing the construction, and the stories they made up to go along with it.  This review is a valuable process for children and our interest shows them the importance that we place on their learning activities.

Before we attempt to talk with our children about school, we have to be clear that they are ready to have a conversation.   A child who arrives home hungry or tired cannot engage in any meaningful activity until those needs are met.  A healthy snack and some quiet play should be the priority.  When you feel the time is right, here are some suggestions to help your child open up about his/her day.

1.  Try to avoid starting a question with  "Did you.....".   Young children are still in the "magic years".  They don't lie, but they don't always distinguish between fantasy and reality.  Answers to  "Did you...."  require only a "yes" or "no" and may not even be true.  One of my favorite quotes is from my daughter's Pre-K teacher:  "If you promise not to believe everything your child says about school, I promise not to believe everything she says about home."

2.  A better idea is to look for a "hook".  Anything your child brings home from school can be a springboard for conversation:  artwork, a teacher note or text, even a dirty shirt!  "I see you have something orange on your shirt.  Where did that come from?" .  (And be happy -- dirt is proof of fun!)  Or, "Your teacher wrote that you have a new hamster in the class.  Tell me about it".

3.  Ask your child to think about something he might like to do in school tomorrow.  "What is the first thing you want to play with in school tomorrow?  When you come home, I'd like to hear all about it".

4.  Challenge your children to think of one fun thing that happened each day.  My daughter does this with her 7 children.  At dinner, each child has a turn to tell something happy or positive that happened during the day.   Great bonding activity, and great way to build gratitude.

Opening conversations about children's school day is part of sharing our lives with them.  Discovering what interests them most will give us the opportunity to build on their strengths  and work with them in paving their way through school and life.  


  1. I loved this!!! I love the tips you gave on ways to engage your child in discussion about their day. I find with my youngest, especially, it's hard to get him to talk about his day. I think your suggestions will really help me. Thanks !

  2. Who are those adorable kids on the monkey bars?! ;)
    Great article! love all the practical tips- especially about making sure kids are in the mood to talk before trying engage them...I'm often guilty of that one and see that when I am patient and wait to hear, I get more conversation about the day over dinner than right when they walk in the door.