My son recently started preschool. He was so excited. We were extremely excited. Leading up to the day, he wouldn’t stop talking about it.
For months leading up to the big day, he carried a backpack to day care and told me all about the dinosaurs and bugs he wanted to learn about in school.
The morning of his first day was bittersweet. He insisted on wearing a Spider-Man shirt and bringing his beloved shark puppet. Instead of oatmeal, he wanted a big boy breakfast, which he characterized as cereal with milk. I walked him to his school bus, held back a few tears, and went about my day of work until it was time to meet his bus on the return trip.
The bus doors swung open, and his smiling face greeted me. “How was your day?” I asked eagerly. “Good,” he said. That’s it! Because I have a teen who also requires me to pull teeth to get some intel on his day at school, I had to get creative.
Here are 14 questions to ask kids so that they’ll open up to you about their day at school.
1. What made you smile today?
This question works wonders on a preschooler. It helped me discover that my son likes monarch (yes, specifically) butterflies when he told me how he saw one on the playground at recess. Once older children are in the “having school crushes” stage, these answers might change a little bit.
2. Did you help anyone today? How?
This question is hit or miss, but when it misses, there’s still an opportunity to talk to your child about what it means to help. Maybe they didn’t help someone that day, but the next time they have an opportunity to, they’ll remember this and have something to talk about that night.
3. What games did you play?
A simple question that often leads to other good memories plus some insight on how your child plays with others. For older kids or teens, swap out games with activities, sports, or fun things in general. Whatever particularly sparked their creative or fun-loving side is sure to come up.
4. Who is your favorite friend at school? Why?
I was surprised to find out that, by asking this question, my son already had a best friend after the first day of school. With older kids, asking this often is one of the best ways to stay on top of who the new friend or clique is this month.
5. Who was kind to you today?
Yes, kids are still kind to each other. Help them remember that. With littler ones, spend some time talking about what it looks like when someone is kind. It’s still cool to be kind, so impress that upon your middle schoolers and high schoolers as well.
6. What did you do to be kind today?
Let them know that you place as much emphasis on being a good person as you do on being a good student just by asking this. Like the previous question, this question can turn into a conversation about what it means to be kind. Give age-appropriate examples of kindness (sharing, smiling, saying nice things, helping), and ask them to add to the list.
7. What did your teacher say to you today?
It’s so open-ended that the answers are seemingly endless. My teen tends to tattle on himself with this one. We don’t know our kids through their teachers’ eyes, so it can be surprising to find out your quiet child was asked to stop talking.
8. What did you learn for the first time?
I’d never know what my kids are learning without asking! Teachers have a lot on their plates already, and communicating every lesson with parents is unreasonable. Asking this simple question is a no-pressure way to be on the same page with your child’s educational team.
9. What made you frustrated today?
This is one question where it’s OK to just listen to the answer. If there’s an opportunity to offer some parental advice without preaching, take it. However, an empathetic ear is often all you need.
10. What did you read about?
Books may or may not be exciting to your kiddo. I’ve enjoyed this question with my preschooler because instead of book titles I get vague descriptions that send us into a fun guessing game where I’m always wrong. If they particularly liked the book, and give you an actual title, even better. Now you have something to add to their library.
11. Tell me about the rules in class.
It’s not totally a fun question, but it’s a necessary one. There are so many transitional grades in school. There’s even quite the variation in rules from class to class for older kids with varied schedules. Rules can feel overwhelming for many kids. If there’s a way to clear up any confusion or to explain why some rules are important, asking this question benefits everyone in the long run.
12. What was your favorite thing about school?
This question can certainly fall into the one-word answer category, but not all the time. Don’t accept “lunch” as an answer. Ask why. Is it lunch because the pizza is that good, or is it lunch because your child’s academic classes are stressful? You’ll find out just by asking.
13. How do you feel about going to school tomorrow?
Be prepared for the good or the bad with this question. Remember: This isn’t an opportunity to lecture. Put on your listening hat and continue the conversation with more questions about the why.
14. What was different about today?
My 3-year-old went wild with his answer to this question, talking about giants and spiders and other things I’m sure he didn’t see at school. My teen was extremely literal and somewhat sarcastic (he named the day of the week). This isn’t a quiz. There’s no right or wrong answer. We’re just showing them we’re interested in their life.