Best questions to get children to talk about school!

For parents, knowing how our children are getting on at school is very important. Especially if they have just started a new phase or if there have been problems with schoolwork, behaviour or friendships. But what are the best questions to get children to talk about school? Keeping in touch with what’s going on isn’t easy when your key source of information won’t open up…questions to get children to talk about school

[Parent] “How was school today?

[Child] “OK

[Parent] “What did you do?

[Child] “Nothing.

It’s very frustrating and not very illuminating! So if you are stuck in a rut and want to find out something more meaningful about your child’s day, it’s probably time to take a different tack. 

Think about timing

Don’t bombard your child with a question the moment they (or you) walk through the door. Children tend to be tired and hungry and in need of downtime at the end of the school day – so talking about school isn’t top of their list of things they want to do right now. Equally, by the time you get home from work, they are probably happily engaged in an activity that has made them relax and forget all about school and the last thing they want to do is to drag their minds back to it again! Curb your impatience. Save the questions until dinnertime or until you are cuddling up for a pre-bed chat.

Don’t have a hidden agenda

If what you really mean is “Did you do anything naughty today?” “Or did something happen today that I need to know about so I can tell you what you should have done differently” then your child will quickly learn to sniff out that hidden agenda and dodge the interrogation. Be genuinely interested in whatever they want to tell you, not just in checking up on whether there is anything they ought to tell you.

Share something about your day

Why not get the conversation started by talking about your day (the age-appropriate bits, that is!). Children are often completely baffled by what their parents really do all day and sharing tidbits from your day – the good bits, the boring bits, the things that made you laugh – is a fantastic way to build a relationship and also to pass on the fine art of conversation.

Pique their interest

An interesting question that makes you think is hard to resist, even for the most recalcitrant school child! Avoid Yes/No questions (or you will just get a yes or a no)! The best questions to get children to talk about school are specific and open-ended. Make them think! Then, even  if the answer is very short, follow it up with another question (Why? How did that make you feel? What did you do?).

10 best questions to get children to talk about school

This is not an exhaustive list, but these ones seem to work well with my boys:

  1. What was your favourite thing about today?
  2. Tell me something good that happened today.
  3. If you could change one thing about today, what would it be?
  4. Which word did you hear the most today?
  5. Which word did you say the most today?
  6. Tell me three words that describe your day.
  7. What made you smile today?
  8. Who was the kindest person in your day today?
  9. What was the best bit of your day?
  10. What are you looking forward to about school tomorrow?

These are my personal favourites. Have you got a particular question that works well for you? Please help out a fellow parent by sharing and commenting below!

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36 thoughts on “Best questions to get children to talk about school!

  1. Aimee Foster

    When I ask, I always get ‘I don’t remember’. Frustrating! Thanks for these tips, it’s good to be armed with more creative ways to extract the info about the school day!

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      How about responding “If you could remember anything what would it be?!” It might not elicit any more information about school but might start a conversation about remembering!

  2. Mumma McD

    My two are still only little but I do ask them about their days when they’ve been at daycare. I find if I ask “who did you play with today?” rather than “how was your day?” I get a better response!

  3. Catherine

    One of the biggest complaints that I, as a teacher, used to hear at parents’ evening was that children didn’t tell parents anything about school! I think that when children come home they just want to switch off as to them their school life and home life are completely separate and not connected. I now find that my daughter will talk when she is distracted by another activity, e.g. eating dinner, cleaning teeth, reading a book so I try and keep the questions to when she instigates the conversation.

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      It’s all about teaching them the art of conversation – you say something, I say something, you say something, I say something – sometimes we have to model it for them!

  4. Fiona Lloyd

    Such good ideas. We ask our little one at the end of storytime – she often doesn’t want to go to sleep and is looking for excuses to stay awake anyway, so is most likely to spill. We ask ‘what’s the funniest thing that happened today?’ and also ‘who made you laugh and why?’ Also – what’s your top 3 from today can often work and bring up random things!

  5. helen gandy

    Great post! Trying to get my son to open up about his day at nursery is bad enough, I shall have to try and remember to ask some more specific questions to get him to open up. Thanks for linking up to the #bestandworst hope you’ll stop by again!

  6. Buffie

    Great article! Since I’ve not been working there is the understanding that when the weather is nice, we’ll walk home from school together. I try to ask open questions like “what interesting things did you do today” or “what new things did you learn about today”. We have a lovely little chat on the way home about whatever projects they’re doing, who he’s been paired with on projects, and interesting facts he’s learned. My son is 9 and in year 5…

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      That’s lovely to hear. It’s so much easier to get them to talk when everything is at a relaxed pace, isn’t it! And the more in touch you are with what’s going on, the more you can ask really specific questions to engage them…

  7. Joe Rawsthorne

    A good and helpful article, thank you.

    A question that I regularly ask that more often than not generates a positive response is;

    Tell me something that I do not know? They will normally rack their brains and recite some factual information that they have learned that day and you can push for a specific or more detailed response if you are familiar with the school themes for each subject. I have found that this turns into a little game and they try to ask me the question first, as soon as they see me after school!

    Regards Joe

  8. Ashley Beolens

    I have taken to asking “what was the worst part of your day?” as well as a number of those you mention (I like the words ones though, might start adding them in). I find you get to find out more about what happened, what things they may be struggling with and if there are things upsetting the little ones as well as what they enjoyed.

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      I hope you don’t need it – some of them do bounce out of school full of everything they have done that day (and leave poor mum or dad wishing they’d just shut up about school!)

  9. Mackenzie Glanville

    My daughter Aspen age 11 is usually such a chatterbox, we have a 35-40 minute drive home and some days she doesn’t stop, but the other two I get far less from, especially my little one who is in his first year, he tells me he forgets. I love the idea of question 8, I will do this one today and see how it goes. Great advice.

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      When he says he has forgotten or can’t remember, you could try asking “If you could remember something, what would it be?”. He still might not remember anything but it might spark something! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  10. Kaye

    I’ve got a while until we need to worry about this but great questions. It just be difficult sending them off for the day and then not having a clue what they got up to! #bestworst

  11. Laura

    What a great post! Definitely going to save this one, very handy. My son is only 2.5 but as his speech gets better and better I’m already starting to get excited about him growing up and hearing about his school day. He goes to nursery two days a week and we already ask him what he did even if we don’t always get a coherent answer yet lol! We also learnt a good trick from my best mate who has three kids (12, 5 and 2). Each night around the dinner table they share their best moment of the day, worst moment and what they learned that day – including the adults. Any guests round for tea also have to participate! It’s really fun and we’ve begun to do it at home too. Thanks for sharing x

  12. Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks

    Oh I might try these with my husband asking about his day…..with my Toddler I have to get VERY specific but I think that’s because he is just three despite his language being good for his age. I ask things like “Did you like your lunch today, what was your favourite?” “Did you do painting today?” “What did you do when you went outside – was it the bikes?” and if he didn’t do those things he tends to say nooooooooooooooo mummy I did XYZ.

    1. AnitaCleare Post author

      Sounds like to have a very chatty one there! It can be harder when they get to school because their days are more varied and we are a bit more disconnected from their routine – but hopefully he will keep chatting away and you’ll never have to get too devious! Not sure if the same questions work on partners – let us know!!

  13. Mary

    I really enjoyed reading this, I often get the “nothing” response, though stories will come out later in the evening, so yeah timing is key I would agree. Will certainly be remembering these questions though and give them a go. #bestandworst


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