Have you ever been excited to hear about your kids’ day at school only to be disappointed by words like, I don’t know, and grunts of mediocrity? Then you’ve probably wished for a big list of questions to ask kids after school.
But before we dive into questions to ask kids after school, maybe you’ve wondered (like I have) why kids are so hesitant to open up after school. Aren’t they excited to be home and see me and tell me about their day?
The truth is, kids experience burnout just like adults do.
Imagine getting home from work and the last thing you probably want to do is talk about the details of work. Kids are no different. The last thing they want right after school is to hear a bunch of questions about their day. Their day just barely ended, and getting asked questions after school sounds kind of like the worst thing ever.
So, what’s the key to getting your kids to answer questions about the school day and actually open up?
We’ve got some ideas to create a good environment so that you can ask all those questions you want to ask your kids about school.
When it comes to questions to ask kids after school, timing is everything.
The old saying timing is everything is so true when it comes to asking kids about their school day. Give them time to relax when they walk in the door. No one wants a debriefing on their day as soon as they are finally in their safe space.
Second, stay close by.
Kids often don’t need a ton of questions when they first get home, they just need a parent close by so that when something does pop into their head about their day, there is someone to tell. Try making a snack and lingering in the kitchen while they eat it. Chances are they’ll start talking when they have some food in their bellies, and mom or dad near by to consult.
Third, wait until bedtime.
Is it just my kids or do yours suddenly become a wealth of information and knowledge at nine at night when it’s time for bed? If so, plan ahead and be ready for them to not only tell you about their day, but for you to have to answer questions yourself.
Kids don’t need to be asked a bunch of questions right after school, they need to do it on their own time.
And often, their little brains start thinking about school at night when they’re thinking about the next day and a lot of good (or bad) info is bound to come bubbling out. Make sure to plan in extra time in the bedtime routine for questions. Yours and theirs.
But, if you do get the rare opportunity to have a heart to heart right after school, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with all the questions to ask your kids after school.
So now to the hard part – what to ask kids instead of “how was your day?”
Kids in general are going to give you either a grunt, or an “I don’t know answer.” or even worse – the dreaded “fine.” when you ask, “How was your day?”
It’s honestly fine to use that question as a tool for a quick check in when kids first get home from school, but if you’re looking to connect with your kids, you’re going to need more tools in your tool box to get the conversation going. After all- we are dying to know what they did all day without us. So, it’s important to get them to open up and ask the right kinds of questions.
Here are three types of questions to have in your tool belt.
- Open ended questions. They spark conversation, and they cannot answer yes or no to these questions.
- Questions that are fun. Game type questions are a blast. In fact, there are games like Poobah that center around getting your kids to open up. My kids really loved it.
- Questions for kids that are part of your family routine or mantra. These might be questions that are both open ended, but also ones to get your kids into action in some way knowing that these questions are going to be asked later.
So, let’s explore all three of these types of questions to ask kids after school to have fun, build connection, and strengthen your family values.
So, what ARE good open ended questions to ask kids?
Ask questions that will spark a top of discussion with your kids that are age appropriate. Here are a few examples:
- Who did you see being kind today? What were they doing? Why was that kind?
- What are you learning in science/history/reading right now? Why do you think it’s important to learn that?
- What made you happy today? Why did that make you happy?
- What upset you today? Why was that a problem for you? What can you do differently next time?
- What did you do to make someone else happy today? What did you do that may have hurt someone today?
- I wonder what would happen if….
- What would you do about…
- Tell me more about…
- When did you feel happy/sad/frustrated/etc.
Sometimes the key to getting kids to open up is to make the questions to ask kids after school into a game.
The easiest way to turn questions into a game is by playing the game would you rather. Here are a few would you rather questions that can both spark discussions and also just be a silly way to connect after so many hours apart.
Mom Loves Best has a giant list of would you rather questions you can ask your kids.
These should keep you busy for a long time. Here are a few of my favorite from their list of would you rather questions that you can turn into a game to get your kids to answer questions after school:
- Would you rather work a job you hate but be well paid, or be happy in your job but not be paid well?
- Would you rather be able to change the past or see into the future?
- Would you rather do a book report or a science project?
- Would you rather write a blockbuster movie or star in one?
- Would you rather go out every day in clothes your parents bought for you, or stay at home every day in the clothes you choose yourself?
- Would you rather be popular and have people think you were unattractive, or unpopular but have everyone think you were attractive?
- Would you rather have savings and few possessions or lots of things and very little money?
- Would you rather be cold or hungry?
For many families, it’s good to have your go to 3-4 of the SAME questions you ask your kids every day after school.
Why would you want to have the same questions you ask your kids every day? Kids love routine. This also gives them time to prepare of an answer.
If they can anticipate that at dinner you’re going to ask them about a random act of kindness they did that day, or something that upset them, they are more likely to come prepared and ready to tell you as soon as they get home.
I also think having 4 (or more or less) questions you ask your kids every day teaches them what family values you find important.
For example, here are a few questions that can become your routine questions to ask your kids every day.
- Who did you include today?
- What was something that happened today that was a blessing?
- Who did you help today?
- Did you do a random act of kindness today? Did you see anyone else do a random act of kindness?
- What did you learn about that you want to learn more about after hearing about it at school?
- What was your favorite part of the day?
- What was something good that happened today?
- What was something bad that happened today?
Many of these ideas are great for younger kids, but we’ve all wondered – What should I ask my teenager after school?
Oof. this is a hard one. To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready for the teenage years to hit so hard and fast in my house. Suddenly, they went from hanging on my every word, to being super annoyed that I even existed.
I would say teenagers need time to open up on their own. Asking teenagers questions after school is not the right way to connect. Instead, teenagers want to see you as relatable. Get interested in what they’re interested in and chances are they will start talking.
If they are a gamer, ask them questions about their game. If they love a certain musician, ask them to let you listen to their favorite song. Show interest in their interests and they are going to trust you, know they are loved, and hopefully if all goes well, they will tell you snippets of their lives at school.
But, in general, I don’t recommend forcing too many questions on teenagers, because they will see right through that and probably roll their eyes and grunt short one-word answers a whole bunch. They are their own unique creature for sure.
Thought provoking questions for kids are my favorite type.
You will find a million websites with questions to ask your kids after school, but the best types of questions are those that make kids think. Because learning what your kids think is a fun part of being a parent. They usually surprise you, and it can be a lot of fun to see how their brains work.
Everything mom has a great list of thought provoking questions to ask your kids. Here are a few from their site. But, make sure to check them all out because they 100 of them!
- How much money do you think is the perfect amount to earn?
- Do you think that travel helps us to be less ignorant, intolerant, and prejudiced? If so, in what way?
- What special skills do you possess that you think you could share with others for their benefit?
- Do you think life or school is a better teacher?
- How do you think the universe came to exist?
- Do you think lying is ok? If so, in what situations, and why?
What are some funny questions to ask toddlers and preschoolers?
I’ve always thought the ages three to four are my absolute favorite. Kids are hilarious, and the way they see the world is equally as hilarious. That’s why getting a few questions to ask your preschooler is so much fun.
I think the best part about asking these types of questions is to document them and write them down. My kids love to look back now that they are older at the funny and silly things they said as toddlers. And asking toddlers and preschoolers questions is the best way to create memories, and also get some much needed laughs.
Parents has a great list of questions to ask your preschoolers. Make sure to check out the full list here.
Here are a few of my favorite toddler questions and preschooler questions to ask from Parents:
- If your stuffed animals could talk, what would they say?
- What does it feel like when I hug you?
- If you drew everything that came into your head, what would you be drawing right now?
- What do you think you’re going to dream about tonight?
- What sounds do you like best and why?
- If you were going to spend the whole day outside, what activities would you do?
- What are the best ways to make a fort?
- How do you think animals communicate?
- Describe a great day: What are you doing that makes it special?
- What animal would make a great driver?
The biggest take away for parents should be that there is no perfect question to ask your kids after school.
But, asking questions after school can help build connection. The ultimate goal in finding out whether your child had a good or a bad day at school is so that you can build your relationship and help them through their struggles.
Questions can be fun, but being there for your kids and getting them to open up to you is even more important. While after school questions are important, your kids will feel just as loved if you show them you love them every day. Here’s a post that will help you make sure you’re on the right track for that.
But, it doesn’t hurt to have some questions to ask kids after school in the off chance that we get a hilarious answer from a preschooler or more than a grunt from a teenager.
Just know though that kids are kids and all they need is you. Questions or no questions.