“What did you learn at school today?” Most days, my kids say “nothing,” to which I respond, “Well, then I should email your teachers because they must not be doing their jobs.” If this dead-end conversation sounds familiar, then maybe, like me, you just need better questions to ask kids after school.
I mean, really. Think about the end of your workday. When someone asks, “How was your day?” you probably often respond with “fine.” Why would we expect something different from our kids? But if we ask more specific, open-ended questions, we’ll get better answers because better questions give the brain a challenge and a direction. So try one of these 21 questions to ask kids after school to learn more about what’s actually going on in your child’s day.
1. What part of the day goes by the fastest/slowest?
This is one of a few sneaky questions to ask kids after school. It will tell you which subject they like the least.
2. What made your teacher(s) smile/frown today?
This answer will clue you in to how the class behaved and if the kids got yelled at a lot. Sometimes our kids bring home a lot of tension from a stressful day.
3. Which subject/class was the most interesting to you today? Why?
Whatever your child’s response, you can follow up and ask him or her to teach you something about the topic.
4. What subject/class was the most challenging?
Calling something is “difficult” feels absolute, but challenges are meant to be overcome. So this is a great way to reframe how your child feels about a tough class.
Calling something is “difficult” feels absolute, but challenges are meant to be overcome.
5. How did you show kindness today?
Just asking this question will make your child think about how he or she behaves toward classmates. If the answer is an honest “I didn’t,” challenge your child to look for an opportunity to show kindness tomorrow.
6. Do you think anyone in your classes could grow up to be a _________?
Fill in the blank with a profession that requires a certain character trait or skill—a comedian, a pastor, a farmer, an astronaut, the president. You’ll learn something about your son or daughter’s classmates.
7. What do you think I would like most about your classroom(s)?
This is just a fun question to ask kids after school. You’ll find out what your child thinks you enjoyed about school or what part of the classroom would most appeal to your style and preferences.
8. If you taught at your school, what rule would you make number one?
This answer can clue you into an injustice your child sees or something he or she thinks is important about how the school runs.
9. Who in your classes could we pray for?
We prayed for my son’s classmate’s dog for three months. Yep—three whole months. This is a good question to help your child see the need around him or her and build deeper friendships.
10. If you could swap desks with anyone, who would you pick and why?
The answer kids give to this will give you clues about who they have conflicts with or who they enjoy being around, or whose desk is closest to the class hamster.
11. If you could be in another grade, would you want to? Which one would you pick?
Get a glimpse into what sparks your child’s interest: seniors who are ready to graduate, the sixth graders who get lockers, the fourth-grade kids who get to go to the science lab, or maybe your child wants to go back in time to naps and finger paint!
12. What do you think your teacher likes most about your class?
This one is a good way to learn about the classroom dynamic. Your son or daughter might share something about the way the teacher and the kids interact that you’ve never heard before.
13. What about your class challenges your teacher(s) the most?
Build empathy and awareness in your child by encouraging him or her to consider how the teacher might have difficulty with behavior, a time of the day, or even a particular lesson.
14. What’s your favorite spot in the school? Least favorite?
Your kid’s answer could be a quiet place, an action-filled spot, or maybe even the bathroom. Be sure to follow up with some questions to find out why.
15. When I was a kid, we loved the swings. What’s the most popular thing to play on at recess?
Most kids not only will tell you the playground hotspot but also who plays on it and who’s got the best skills.
16. Do you ever see kids get teased? What do you do?
Be ready with advice in case your child doesn’t know what to do if he or she sees someone being treated unfairly. It might even be your child.
17. If you could redo one part of your day, what would you pick?
Will the answer be the best part he wants to do all over again? Will it be the worst part she wants to fix? Either way, you’ll get a glimpse of how your child’s day went.
18. What three words would you use to describe ______?
Fill in the blank with something you’re trying to get a read on. Describe social studies. How about multiplication tables? Describe your biology teacher.
19. If you had money and could buy one thing for your school, what would it be?
You’ll probably get a silly answer, but you might also find out what your child thinks would make his or her day better.
20. You get to swap one subject out for another. What do you take away and what class would you add?
Buh bye, math! Hello, YouTube video production! There’s no wrong answer to this one.
21. What did you talk about over lunch today?
Wouldn’t it be great to be a fly on the wall of a school cafeteria? You can’t listen in to how your child interacts with friends over lunch, but the answer to this question will help you learn what he or she has in common with friends.
What are some of your favorite questions to ask kids after school? How else do you get the conversation going?