by Eliza Clark
We all know the scenario: you pick up your adorable love at preschool, and hoping to glean a bit about what went on during your time apart, ask "How was school today?"
Common answers include: "Fine," "Good," and "Did you bring me a snack?"
Not exactly informative.
So how does one elicit stories about school from a two, three or four-year-old? Especially the contrarian kind? (Aren't all preschoolers contrarians?)
After a lot of experimenting and consulting with teachers and other parents who know what they're doing, we've come up with some questions that work most of the time. We say most of the time, because if a preschooler wants to stay mum, that's what a preschooler will do. Until a comment or story slips out inadvertently when you're talking about something else entirely. Like finishing up your green beans.
Anyway, the trick with these questions seems to be specificity. Ask as concrete a question as you can. And if you know a little bit about a project or event going on at school, ask about that. Otherwise, one of these ten questions will probably get your little one going. (Careful what you wish for!)
- Who did you sit next to at circle time today? Ask this every day and you'll learn something about your child's friendships.
- What was your job at school today? Most preschools give each child a job like "weather person" or "plant helper." It's a source of great pride for kids and they usually like talking about it.
- What did you eat for snack? The most concrete and sensory of questions... Some of us grownups still think with our tummies too.
- What book did the teacher read today? And if a child doesn't know the title, you can just ask what the book was about or if he liked it.
- Who did you play with during outside time? If you get an answer to this one, follow up by asking what they were playing.
- Can you tell me about the picture your brought home? Spend some time looking at the artwork or crafts your child brings home. Rather than ask "what is it?" talk about the colors and shapes, and listen to your child's comments. Show you value the picture by hanging it up somewhere special.
- What was your favorite part of school today? Asking this question regularly will give you a sense of your child's developing interests.
- Did anything silly happen at school today? The most memorable moment of the day may have been when someone made crazy faces at the snack table.
- Did anything sad happen at school today? Likewise, strong emotions tend to make a big impression. Your child may want to talk about how a friend cried and later felt better.
- Let's play school. You be the teacher and the stuffed animals and I will be the kids. This approach takes a bit more time and patience, but it also tends to be the most revealing. See what it's like to be in your kid's shoes for a while. And be prepared to "raise a quiet hand" if you want to speak during circle time.
• Chapter book whodunits for your little Encyclopedia Brown.
• Fun times with the big kids -- activities and outings for young elementary school kids.