“How was school today?”

You’ve been waiting in the carpool line for a while. You’re looking forward to seeing your son. You haven’t seen him all day. You’re curious about what’s been happening in his life while you’re not there. He opens the door, throws his stuff in, hops in, and buckles up. You ask hopefully, “How was your day?” Response, “Fine.” You: “What did you do today?” Son: “Nothing.” or “I don’t remember.” Disappointing, right?

How do you get your child engaged in a conversation with you where he’ll share?

One tip is to do something with him. Let him use the time in the car to relax. Then find small activities to do with him. While he’s busy doing something he’s more likely to relax and engage. For example, have him help cook a meal. Start talking about the food you’re making, mention what your favorite food is, what is his most/least favorite food? What’s his most/least favorite food in dining hall? Who does he sit with? Do they like the food? What do you guys talk about? Are they your good friends? If not, who are your friends or who would you ask to be at your table? See? Now you’ve got him talking about his friends!

You can do this with almost any activity – take a walk around the block, play a card game, shoot some hoops or play catch.


Sometimes different, open-ended questions may elicit more of a response. Here’s a list of some conversation prompts that might help:

  1. What made you smile today?
  2. Can you tell me an example of kindness you saw/showed?
  3. Was there an example of unkindness? How did you respond?
  4. Does everyone have a friend at recess?
  5. What was the book about that your teacher read?
  6. What’s the word of the week?
  7. Did anyone do anything silly to make you laugh?
  8. Did anyone cry?
  9. What did you do that was creative?
  10. What is the most popular game at recess?
  11. What was the best thing that happened today?
  12. Did you help anyone today?
  13. Did you tell anyone “thank you?”
  14. Who did you sit with at lunch?
  15. What made you laugh?
  16. Did you learn something you didn’t understand?
  17. Who inspired you today?
  18. What was the peak and the pit?
  19. What was your least favorite part of the day?
  20. Was anyone in your class gone today?
  21. Did you ever feel unsafe?
  22. What is something you heard that surprised you?
  23. What is something you saw that made you think?
  24. Who did you play with today?
  25. Tell me something you know today that you didn’t know yesterday.
  26. What is something that challenged you?
  27. How did someone fill your bucket today? Whose bucket did you fill?
  28. Did you like your lunch?
  29. Rate your day on a scale from 1-10.
  30. Did anyone get in trouble today?
  31. How were you brave today?
  32. What questions did you ask at school today?
  33. Tell us your top two things from the day (before you can be excused from the dinner table!).
  34. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
  35. What are you reading?
  36. What was the hardest rule to follow today?
  37. Teach me something I don’t know.
  38. If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be?
  39. (For older kids):  Do you feel prepared for your history test?” or, “Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to talk about?” (In my opinion, the key is not only the way a question is phrased, but responding in a supportive way.)
  40. Who did you share your snacks with at lunch?
  41. What made your teacher smile? What made her frown?
  42. What kind of person were you today?
  43. What made you feel happy?
  44. What made you feel proud?
  45. What made you feel loved?
  46. Did you learn any new words today?
  47. What do you hope to do before school is out for the year?
  48. If you could switch seats with anyone in class, who would it be? And why?
  49. What is your least favorite part of the school building? And favorite?
  50. If you switched places with your teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?

(list adapted from post by Leslie Means on her blog Her View From Home)