‘How was your day?’ gets you nowhere. Try these questions to get your kids talking.

This afternoon, like any other school day, parents across Australia will be asking their kids: “How was your day?”

It would be a safe bet to assume the response will be … “good”.

Educational consultant, Prudence Reid, says parents wish they could get more conversation but they don’t really know how to get there.

The alternatives

The Sydney-based qualified primary school teacher and mother of four has given Mamamia a bunch of alternative open-ended questions to ask.

  • Who had a cool lunch today? What was in it?
  • Who talked the most in the class today? Did the teacher mind?
  • Did anybody fall over at school today?
  • What did you today in class that you enjoyed the most?
  • What did you do that you didn’t like doing? Then follow-up with why? Get children thinking and learning about their own interests.
  • If you were the teacher how would you run the class and what subject would you start the day with and why?
  • Which teacher do you like in the school?
  • Which teacher in the school don’t you know but would like to have?
  • Are there any mean kids in the school or class? Why are they mean?*
  • Whose drawing hanging up do you like? And why do you like that one the most?*
  • Did you make anything today at school or draw something? What did you use to do this?
  • What games are there in your classroom?
  • What does your teacher look like?
  • Did anybody get caught picking their nose?*
  • Does your teacher remind you of somebody?
  • Who do you like to work with?
  • Which rule was hard to stick to today?
  • Did anybody get in big trouble today?
  • Who is the quietest class worker?
  • Is there somebody special in your class that you really like?
  • What colour shoes did your teacher have on today?
  • Did somebody try a new hairdo?
  • Does anybody have a nickname in the class?
  • What game are you doing in your computer session?
  • Did you sing any new songs today? Can you teach me how to sing it?
  • Did you do something today you wish you hadn’t?

“Language is so powerful and often not valued enough in day to day activities,” says Reid.

“Every little word is a clue. Kids are like animals they are taking it in without knowing,” she added.

The Sydneysider advises not to focus too much on negative stuff.

“Just a few of these questions once or twice a week is plenty. A bit like a self-check. The world is real and skills to improve self-awareness are very valuable,” she added.

The educational consultant, who helps build confidence in adults and children, says parents need to choose words carefully to convey an interest in a child’s wellbeing.

For example, if you ask the question about mean kids and leave out “to you” the child’s thinking may consider more situations that he may have witnessed rather than a self-focus.

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Reid also warns against placing a judgement and says to avoid asking who is a good drawer but rather: “What drawing did you like?”

The mum of four encourages other parents to ask questions that trigger creative thinking and curiosity. Like: Why do you like it (the drawing)? What colours did they use?

The primary school teacher says other questions on the list are just designed as an ice-breaker. For example, “Did anyone in the class get caught picking their nose?” is a silly question, but Reid says it helps the child understand they can be honest with you and you won’t judge him.

“Talking to your child is an art. Sometimes, asking no questions is best – if you can see your child is tired and not in the mood. Maybe the day to ask about it is the next morning in the car after the child has had sleep,” she said.

“Mindlessly channelling questions without feeling the energy of the child may be counterproductive,” she added.

Prudence Reid is the founder of ipigeonhole – an independent educational consultancy. ipigeonhole works with children, parents and schools to increase confidence and a love of learning by creating personalised programs for each situation. They work creatively in the fields of education and mediation to provide alternate solutions to day to day challenges.