You can almost guarantee that most parents will greet their children at the school doors with the age old question “What did you do today?” to be met with the universal answer… “Nothing!!”
This is very normal and at parents’ evening quite a few parents ask us why their children are reluctant to talk about what they have been doing at school. It can be for a number of reasons, children have been busy all day at school or nursery and have a lot of different activities packed into their day, often it is simply too much at such a young age to recall all the details. Therefore, it’s much easier to say “I don’t know” or “Nothing”.
Additionally, children can be tired and hungry after a busy school day. It is very tiring for them to be in a school environment and they see the end of the day as a time to unwind and relax.
So how do you find out what your little ones have been up to and encourage them to chat about their day? We have a few tips and tricks that might help!
Instead of jumping straight in with questions when you meet your child, greet them with a smile and hug and say how happy you are to see them (maybe give them a little snack if they are tired and hungry). As you travel home, chat to them a little about what your day has been like rather than immediately focussing on what they have done.
As an example, “When I dropped you off at school I drove to work and I did some work on my computer in the morning then I had a cheese and tomato sandwich for my lunch”. At this point children might say “Oh we had pasta for lunch today.” Rather than asking another question at this point like “Did you eat all yours?” (even if you really want to ask!!) continue the conversation with “Oh yummy! I love pasta! After I finished my lunch I had a walk outside then I read a book to find out some information to do some more work.” They might at this point tell you about a book they read at school that day: “We read a book about dinosaurs today.” Again, resist the urge to ask “What did you learn about them?” You could simply say, “I don’t know much about dinosaurs. I’d like to know more.” It is surprising how children will offer more information during normal chit chat rather than direct questioning; this often puts them on the spot and they find it hard to answer. These examples may seem over simplified but it is amazing how many direct questions we ask children every time they tell us something. Don’t worry if they don’t talk about their day at first as by chatting through your day you will be modelling how to do this and therefore teaching them how to talk about their day which is a great skill to have.
- It also might be better to chat about their day (and yours) a little later on in the evening when they have been able to relax a little, maybe in the bath or when you are reading them a bedtime story. Often children suddenly want to tell you everything about their day when it is time for lights out at bedtime… a great ‘delaying’ technique which they master!
- Before bed you could do the ‘Thank you, sorry and please’ game (and it’s more effective if you play this with them to model how to do it). Think of something in your day you want to say thank you for, something you might want to say sorry for and the ‘please’ part is something you would like help with or like to happen the next day. Often this is a good way for children to say what is on their mind and a nice way to end the day.
- Sometimes it helps to talk when you are all together as a family, at mealtimes perhaps, and everyone can say the best thing that happened to them that day (Warning! When we ask this at school, children often say playtime and lunch!!)
This helps children to focus on the positive parts of the day and they also learn to listen to other members of the family. Being a good listener is such a good quality to have but, as with anything, children need to see this being modelled and practise doing it!
- Another game you can play (and this works better with slightly older children, such as pre-prep rather than nursery,) is to say two things that are true about the day and one thing that is false and you have to guess which is the false answer. Children love this game and they really like you to do it too. It means you get to find out a bit about their day and have fun as well!
- Most of all relax, some children are super chatty and will tell you every aspect of their day and other children will not be so forthcoming and you get the “nothing” answer. This is all very normal as all children are different and it would be very boring if we were all the same! However, the more you model talking about your day the more your children will be able to join in.
- It may also be interesting for you to have a look at the class planning (which we put up on the stairway/ hallway for pre-prep and nursery) or chat to the teachers about things we have been doing in school. Feel free to ask to have a look at your child’s learning journey in Reception and Nursery as these have lots of photos of your children busy at school and we are always happy for you to come and have a look at them. You’ll be amazed at how much they get up to! Finally, have a look on our website for a ‘day in the life’ for Reception Class.