As children everywhere start making their way back to school, the same conversation will take place in households across the globe. Some version of this conversation plays out in the majority of homes every night. This leaves mom feeling compelled to demonstrate an interest in her child's day, seek reassurance their schooling is a positive experience, and check to make sure they are still capable of human speech.
This mom-child conversation usually goes a little something like this:
Mom: How was school today?
Child issues a noncommittal grunt that could really mean anything but is generally interpreted as “fine.”
Mom: What did you do?
Mom: Why do I even bother?
The problem is that we have taken to asking the exact same generalized question each evening and expect an engaging, thoughtful sparkly reply in return.
When we ask “How was school?” while doing something else, we give the impression we are only superficially interested and therefore only require a superficial, thoughtless reply.
If you want your miniature human to pay attention, articulate the details of their day, and converse “properly” with you, you’ll need to ask them something a little more thought-provoking and do so in a way that demonstrates a genuine interest in their answer.
Try some of these questions, not only to get the conversation going but to give you a deeper insight into what school is like for your kiddos.
20 If Spaceship Flew Over Your Schoolyard, Who Would It Choose To Beam Up?
Here's a question to inspire a conversation about personal characteristics, how we see and form opinions about other people and how the rest of the world might see us.
Follow-up questions might include “Why would an alien want to take that person?” “Who would you want the alien to take?” “Is that because you think they are a good example of a nice human for the aliens to study or because you don’t like them?”
This is a silly and fun chat to have while also giving you an insight into your child's relationships at school.
19 What Is The Best Rule At School?
This is especially useful for discovering what should and should not happen in the classroom and on the schoolyard. By asking your child which rules they approve of you are also gaining valuable insight into what is important to your kiddo and exactly how their mind ticks.
Discovering that your future grown-up sees “No using unkind words” as a good rule should be reassuring but if they think “Keep them classroom tidy” is a silly rule, stock up on air fresheners and be prepared for a teenage period that is the stuff of nightmares.
Follow-up questions include “What's The Worst Rule?” and “ What Rule Would You Like to Be In Place?”
18 If Your Teacher Was A Superhero, Which One Would They Be?
The answer to this one can be especially fun if you already know your child’s teacher.
Perhaps you think of your little one’s educator as a real-life Miss Frizzle and would expect your child to choose Jean Grey of X-Men fame because she is quiet and reserved only to discover kiddo sees her teacher as the ever-cool Wonder Woman.
Who knows what you might discover about your children's teachers?
You could also switch the question around and ask “Which Superhero Would You Like To Be Your Teacher?”
17 Which Person In Your Class Would Make The Best Baker/Fireman/Mom Etc.?
This question is a great way to gain insight into your child's classmates and how they interact with your little one on a daily basis. Your child's answers will also tell you how they view different professions and the people in those professions.
Being told “Abby would make a good mom because she is kind to everyone” demonstrates a positive view of motherhood, mothers, and your role in your child’s life. While “Abby would make a good mom because she can’t read yet and just sits around all day” -- not so much.
16 If You Had A Camera, What Would You Have Taken A Photo Of At School Today?
Get those brain cells buzzing and ask your tiny scholar what was the most interesting visual of the day.
Just the act of having to change how you think about something can be enough to kickstart the thought processes so asking the kiddos to go back through their day and concentrate on the visuals requires them to stop what they are doing and pay attention to the task at hand.
A variation on this one for smaller children is to ask them what they would draw, or actually have them draw a picture of the most interesting moment of the day.
15 Imagine Your Teacher Had A Different Job, What Would It Be?
Another question that encourages children to think more deeply about those aspects of their world they see every day, and perhaps take for granted.
For example, good old Mr. Yorkdale is a permanent fixture in the classroom and is viewed as a teacher, but there is more to him than meets the eye. Encouraging your child to sit and chat with you about how Mr. Y might have skills and interests that revolve around something other than the classroom.
Just remember to tell your child to keep your chats to themselves. Otherwise, their teacher might hear about how junior thinks they could be a police officer and you think they could be an excellent baker.
14 Which Pet Would Be Best For Your Class?
Follow up with “Why would it be a good pet for your class?” “Do you think everybody would like the same pet?” “How would you decide which animal to choose if there were lots of different suggestions?” etc.
Use the conversation to talk about taking other peoples views into consideration, respectful debate, and how a group of people can decide on something together.
This not only gets a convo going but it provides a useful foundation for talking to your child about fairness, give and take, and compromise.
13 If Your Classmates Were Animals, Which Ones Would They Be?
If you have the planning and motivation, this question can be the gift that keeps on giving as far as after-school conversations go.
When you ask at the beginning of the school year, the answers will probably be based solely on the physical appearance of the classmates along with a few, superficial observations around personality.
Fast forward three months later and you can be asking if those first impressions have changed and why. This is where the planning part comes in, you need to have jotted down a few of the answers from the first round against which to compare round two.
Otherwise, you’ll never remember who was a dragon and who was a hamster.
12 Imagine You Had $1000 To Spend On Your Classroom. What Would You Buy?
The answers to this question are almost limitless, and they will undoubtedly shine a light on what your son or daughter feels is lacking in their school environment. Perhaps their ideas might be for something practical such as some new chairs because the current ones are old, broken, and have already been repaired a number of times.
If they do suggest something in this vein, it opens up the possibility of a parent fundraising to improve your child’s classroom.
Unless of course, your child, like mine, suggests buying enough plastic balls to turn the entire room into a giant ball pit. In that case, you probably might not want to pursue the idea as a PTA goal.
11 Does Anyone In Your Class Have A Hard Time Following The Rules?
Prompting your child to single out a particular classmate for a negative reason is not always the best idea. It can come back to bite you in the behind.
I speak from personal experience on this one. Having asked our son this one time, I had a discussion with him about avoiding being drawn into trouble. Boy, did I get an earful from other moms the next day all about how James had been told not to play with “that troublemaker because he’ll make you a troublemaker too.”
Keep this one up your sleeve for when your own child gets into trouble and use it to draw them out on the details.
10 Which One Of Your Classmates Would Make A Good Teacher?
It is generally a good idea to use the “which of your classmates” type questions near the beginning of the year because it can prompt your child to think about those he shares a classroom with, a little more deeply than they might otherwise do.
In turn, this can lead to them making better choices when it comes to forming friendships. They are also an excellent tool for parents to quickly work out who’s who in the class because the extended discussion gives you more of a description of each child on which you can then hang a name.
9 What Would You Teach The Class If You Were The Teacher Tomorrow?
If you have a little one who is thoroughly obsessed with a particular subject such as dinosaurs, animals, or How To Train Your Dragon, you can probably anticipate the answer to this question, but that’s not always the case.
Fully expecting our daughter to answer something along the lines of “animals” or “how to be a vet” I asked our daughter what she would teach, and she surprised me by coming out with “How to be nice to each other because some of the kids in my class don’t know how to do this yet.”
8 Where Would Be A Good Place To Go On A Class Trip?
If you are keen to find out what your children are learning at school, ask them where they would take the class on a tip to tie in with their current learning.
It is an interesting way of digging into your child's experiences in the classroom without coming straight out and asking the dreaded “what did you do at school today?”
Follow-up questions around “Why would you go there?” “How would that fit in with what you are learning about in class?” and “Do you really think a day trip to Antarctica/Ancient Egypt/the inside of your body? Would be possible?” are all excellent ways to keep the conversation going.
7 Who Would You Invite To Be Your Teachers Helper For The Day?
For the children just embarking on their educational career, the top answers to this question usually are “mommy,” “daddy,” and “our pet hamster/cat/iguana,” although not necessarily in that order of importance.
Older children will start to think of superheroes or fictional favorites while tweens and teens become a bit more interesting. Now that we are homeschooling, I have been hoping to hear the answer “Chris Pratt/Josh Brolin/Any of the Hemsworth brothers,” but I am, alas, still waiting for that day.
Not that my kid is suggesting it will make it magically happen off course, but a mom can dream can’t she?
6 If You Could Choose A New Place For Your Classroom, Where Would It Be?
We have had some fun discussions around this question with everything from “The beach on an island in the Pacific, as long as it had good Wi-Fi,” to “Anywhere they didn’t have any kind of computer or book or paper, so I didn’t have to do any more school work” given as suggestions.
You can also throw a form of this question out there while watching TV or listening to the news. Asking “What do you think it might be like if you went to school there?” is a valuable way to help your child explore the experiences of others and develop empathy by trying to put themselves in the shoes of other children.
5 What Was The Funniest Thing That Happened Today?
This is a question with plenty of variations. You can ask about the silliest thing, the worst thing, or something that made them smile, just as long as you use a little more originality than “how was school today?”
By asking this, you are also giving your child a valuable opportunity to share with you, something they are unsure about how to bring up.
For example. If you develop the habit of asking this kind of question and following up with “whys” and “whos” your little will get into the habit of exploring events with you after school.
Then, if something’s bothering them, they can begin a discussion about it gently and begin sharing their fears without the pressure of a big “sit down and talk to you” event.
4 What’s The Best Game At Recess?
Are you worried your mini-me might be left standing alone at the side of the schoolyard while the rest of their class has fun?
Asking a child “did you play with anyone today?” or “did anyone play with you today?” can transfer your concerns to your child, who may then begin to worry about friends at recess.
Asking what the most popular games are, or something similar allows you to explore what is going on at break time, without making it about your child and their friends, or lack thereof.
3 If Your Class Was In A TV Show, What Show Would It Be Called?
Asking a little one this question can be surprisingly productive, both in the practical information about what is happening in the classroom you draw out and in humor value.
Older children, less so and in fact the older they get, the less fun the answers become until you have a teenager who tells you the show would be called “How To Torture Teenagers To Death Through Boredom,” then the whole thing becomes a bit of a downer.
Until then, enjoy this and other associated questions around “Which TV show is your class most like?” or “What would a movie about your day be called?”
2 What Meal Would You Cook For Your Class?
Obviously, some of the questions on this list are a little more specific to a particular interest, and this is one of them.
However, you could quickly change things up a little and ask “What song would you sing for your class?” “What would you paint on your classroom wall?” or “What app would you like to play with your entire class?”
Whatever it is, form a question about your child's interests and ask them to think about how they would use their interests and skills to give something to their classmates and teacher.
1 What Would You Do Differently If You Could?
Intended to promote reflection and learning, this is not intended to be a way to fuel regret. If your child starts to slide into a regretful “I wish I had” or “I wish I hadn’t” frame of mind bring them back with some encouraging words.
Explain that we may not be able to change what has already happened, but we can learn from things that have gone wrong and remember to act differently next time. On top of that, reflecting on things that may have gone wrong can show us ways to make things a little better, for example by apologizing.
This doesn't always go as planned though. I had no response prepared when I asked our six-year-old daughter this, and she said: “I would have punched Jake in the face if I could because he’s annoying.”
Reference: This one mom's experience.