• What Did You Do Today?

    We know you are eager to know how your child’s day went.

    What did they do? What did they learn?

    The challenge is that these questions might be too vague and not “interesting” enough to a child to get them talking.

    You’ll be surprised what you can learn about your children when you get them to start chatting about their day.

    Plus, if they are having difficulty or a problem at school hopefully they’ll open up a little more so you can figure out what’s going on.

    Does this sound familiar?

    You pick up your child from school, buckle them into their car seat and as you are starting to pull away from the school:

    Parent: “How was your day?”

    Child: “Good.”

    Parent: “What did you do today?”

    Child: “Nothing.”

    Here are a few different questions to try when attempting to jumpstart the conversation:

    • What was the best thing that happened at school today?
    • What was the worst thing that happened at school today?
    • Tell me something that made you laugh today.
    • Tell me about what you read in class today. What did your teacher read to the class today?
    • Who did you sit with at lunch today? What did you talk about?
    • Can you show me something you learned today?
    • Tell me the name of 3 friends you played with today?
    • Did your teacher say something funny thing today?
    • What class rules does your teacher say are important?
    • Did you get frustrated with anything at school today?
    • Were you able to finish all your work today?
    • Tell me about a new word you heard today at school.
    • Did anyone do something nice for you today?
    • Did you do something nice for someone?
    • What was your favorite part of the day?

    They will likely say “the playground” was their favorite part of the day. This does not mean that they are not busy learning and working in the classroom.

    Of course, outside play is the favorite part of the day – it’s everyone’s favorite part of the day!

    The point is to get your child feeling comfortable and talking to you.

    Understanding your child’s favorite playground or classroom activity can be a doorway to an entire conversation:

    “Did you get a turn with the scooter?”

    These questions can begin with your child as young as 2.5 years old. Keep at it. I assure you that the same questions will come in handy when they are young teenagers and they return to “one word” answers.

    It’s also important not to ask too many questions. Pick a few a day to concentrate on and mix it up.

    In the Montessori environment, your child will participate in many activities to prepare them to hold a pencil. It is very important that the hand is properly trained and ready to begin writing. Be patient, this process should never be rushed. Pretty soon, your child will have what we call “an explosion into reading”. During this time, they are busy building words with the materials in the classroom. Writing on paper will come, it will. Once it does, you will start to see their “writing work”. Until then, you may see some art projects in their file, but that might be it.

    Rather than have children trace letters, or repetitively copy letters or words, we use “Metal Inset Work”. The Metal Insets are very interesting to children and more effectively train the hand for precise writing, when they are ready. If you start to see 5 x 5 squares of paper come home, with a geometric shape traced in one to three colors using colored pencils, this is the “Writing Training” you are looking for. You will see the Metal Inset work improve with detail and intricacy. Children really love this work.

    So, what else is happening during the day, when your child comes home empty-handed?

    Just a few, a peak into the day

    • Raised my hand at circle for the first time
    • Had a lesson with the math work I know what 1000 looks like
    • Was invited to have snack with a kindergartner
    • Mixed red paint with yellow paint, and watched it turn orange
    • Was chosen to lead the line when we went outside
    • Read a book with a friend
    • Helped a friend zip up their coat
    • Finished the Alphabet roll for the first time by myself
    • Held the hand of a new friend who was missing their mom
    • Practiced saying Please and Thank you
    • Painted a picture at the easel, for my best friend, Audrey
    • Watched the caterpillar turn into a butterfly, right in our classroom
    • Picked fresh flowers for the lunch table















    Think about it, so many opportunities for little lessons and learning how to be a member of a community as well as learning how to learn.

    Some tips while on your way home from school, hearing about or discovering the golden opportunities they experienced during the day.

    Stay off YOUR phone.

    This can be tough here in the Silicon Valley – many of our parents work tech jobs that seemingly never end. But try to avoid conference calls while riding in the car to and from school.

    The car can be a great time to talk with your child – if you can eliminate the distractions. Having your attention in the car will be something you children will come to look forward to.

    My boys are grown now. When they were in preschool and even elementary school, we had a 30 to 45-minute commute each way. We made up games that involved the radio, other cars on the road, road signs, etc.

    Most importantly we laughed and spent the time interacting together.

    Don’t be afraid to be silly!

    This is a great time and place for it. It is just you and your children in the car. Nobody else is paying attention. Go for it!

    If you have had a stressful day, this can be a very effective way for you to unwind from your day as well.

    Most importantly, your kids will love it and will feel like they can relax with you- which in turn will help them be more open and honest when talking to you.

    Enjoy this time – it does not last forever.

    Ideas for games in the car:

    Younger children 2-4

    1. Pick out a color -(take turns each day, who will choose the color) Identify things outside the car that are Yellow for example. Take turns.
      – Yellow – I see a yellow school bus
      – I see a yellow sign
      – I see a yellow hat on a lady walking on the sidewalk
    2. Animals of the Alphabet – start with first letter of the alphabet – name an animal that starts with the letter “A” (sound is “a”) The next person names an animal that starts with the letter “B” (sound is ‘b’)
      – Anteater
      – Bear
      – Cat
      …And so on through the alphabet. It can get tricky
      Variations: Instead of Animals: Name fruit, vegetable, people’s names – get creative
    3. Name Different Vehicles
      – Truck
      – Bus
      – Tractor
      – Bobcat
      – Tanker Truck
      You will be surprised how much they know and are interested in at this age

    Older children 4 to 8

    1. Name an animal
      – Tiger
      The next person names an animal that starts with the last letter in Tiger “r”
      – Racoon
      The next person names an animal that starts with “n” (Note: Pretty soon, you will discover that lots of words end with the same letter. Go as far as you can until you can’t think of one. Try naming fruits, names, vegetables, places etc.
    2. 20 Questions – One person thinks of something. Anything. The group takes turns asking one question at a time, and the question has to be asked such that the answer is only a “yes” or a “no” response.When I was a little girl, playing this game, the first question might be “is it bigger than a bread box?” So naturally, when I asked this question, my children asked “what is a bread box”? It is funny sometimes to think of terms or phrases we use, that no longer exist. A bread box would sit on the counter in the kitchen and hold 2 loaves of bread. Who still has a bread box?Whoever can guess the item within the 20 questions, gets to go next. If the item is not guessed, the person gets to go again.
    3. Radio Games – I listen to country music in the car. The radio station plays the hits, so they repeat often. We would get in the car, before turning on the radio, we each would choose three country music artists, and then as we drove we would keep track of how many songs from that artist were played.Example:Mom: Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and Toby KeithMikael: Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and Luke BryanAdam: Carrie Underwood, Dan and Shay and Kesley BalleriniVariations:
      – We would just try and shout out the next song that would play
      – A song would come on and I would challenge the kids to name the artist
      – We might guess if the next song would be “male”, “female” or “a band”
    4. Let’s Find Our Way Home – Start this game by having your child name your street as you approach. After a few days of this, name the street you turn on to get to your street. Continue adding the names of the streets all the way from school to home. While you are at it, practice your house address, cell phone number. Get creative and learn grandmas phone number, address. As long as it doesn’t become confusing, add the additional addresses if they ask and want to know.
    5. Road Signs – Your child will start to do this on their own. In Montessori, we talk about “An Explosion into Reading”. You will know your child is exploding into reading when they start to try and read the road signs. “S T O P ‘ “Stop” – Foster this, try more signs. Increase the difficulty by adding the names of the streets.

    Today, my boys are very independent, and we do not spend as much time together as we used to.

    When I really want to know how they are doing, I find a reason to ride in the car.

    It takes time for them to start talking, so the trip needs to be longer than a drive to the grocery store. But by using questions like the ones listed here, they always begin to open up to me.

    So, next time you are in the car, choose two or three of these questions and give it a try. It might take a few attempts but keep at it & I am confident that you will get your child to start talking to you – and probably asking you a few of these questions.

    Below are a couple of links for some additional information on this topic.


    Until next time…
    “Children First, Always”