Here’s the setting: You just picked your daughter up from preschool, you buckle her in the car seat and head towards home.
You: “What did you learn at school today?”
Kid: Blank stare out the window.
You: “Well, what did you do at school?”
Kid: “What’s for dinner?”
You: “No really, you didn’t learn anything at school today?”
Kid: “I don’t remember.”
This is an age-old scenario, and the bad news is it’s probably going to get worse the older your kid gets. But there are some tricks you can use to try to nip this in the bud and get her opening up more about her life at school.
Your question is probably too vague. Don’t ask: “How was your day?” Instead ask about a specific activity, a friend, a topic, a feeling. Ask what book the teacher read during morning circle, or ask about something that made her laugh. Or you can even get super-micro about it and ask something like, “Can you tell me 3 green things you saw today?” Or: “How many times did you go down the slide?” You’re bound to elicit some story with questions like these, since she’ll have to dig back into her memories of the day for the answers.
Play the waiting game.
Don’t expect a full recap of your child’s day the second you pick her up. If she had an exciting day she’s more likely to be bursting with information, but more often than not she’s just going to ask you for a snack. If you’re not having luck connecting right after school, dinnertime or bedtime are great opportunities to elicit discussions.
Make it a point to be informed about her daily schedule and routines, so you can ask about specific activities. Know which days the librarian visits, or when the weekly music class happens. Hopefully your school is using technology to communicate with you throughout the school day, so that you have some idea of what her day has looked like. Brightwheel is a free and easy-to-use mobile app that helps schools stay better connected with families. Teachers use brightwheel for easily recording and tracking daily events and activities in the classroom. As a parent, you’ll get real-time updates on your child delivered to your mobile device throughout the day automatically. If you can’t get her to open up, at least you’ll have pictures of her day that you can ask her to tell you all about!
Talk the talk.
As much as you can, model conversation skills, even for the littlest family members. The dinner table is the perfect spot for catching up on the day’s events. If you make it a habit to share details of your day, your kids won’t feel put on the spot, it’ll just be part of your family routine. Share details of your workday, and model asking specific questions to each other.
Make it a game or a ritual.
At our house we play the game “Rose & Thorn” as part of our bedtime ritual. We take turns sharing details of our day–specifically the best part of the day, and then the worst part. This can then lead to further discussion about events at school. Another big hit with the preschool crowd can be the classic question game, “Would You Rather?” This one you can easily tailor towards school topics: “Would you rather play with Phoebe or Sara?” “Would you rather play at the water table or in the sandbox?”
Brightwheel is a free, easy-to-use app for preschools, daycares, and families. Download it today and get started!