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20 Questions to Ask Children Instead of ‘How was your day at school?’

As we head back to school and start thinking about school lunches, school traffic zones, uniforms and books, it might be a good time to pause and think about that same question most of us ask when we see our kids after school – ‘How was your day at school?’ After the first few days, that question often gets met with a resounding ‘fine’…. and then you might go for the ‘what did you do today?’ to try to switch it up. But if your kids are anything like mine, the ‘how was your day?’ question wears a bit thin pretty quickly – for both parents and child. I did a fair bit of reading around this a while ago and found out that young kids have limited recall on ‘what’ they actually did at school during the day. Are you constantly baffled that when pushed for an answer, your kids will invariably tell you the LAST thing that they remember doing that day? So, with research behind me, I’ve devised a list of 20 questions, based on age, to ask instead of ‘How was your day at school?’

After School Questions to ask Toddlers after a day at daycare

The most important thing to remember about children under 5 is that they live in the moment. When you come to pick them up from childcare, they are living in the moment and (hopefully) enjoying their time in that exact moment. When you ask them ‘how was your day?’ they are forced to think about the ‘whole’ day and this is very difficult for most toddlers. The best way to start to engage them with stories of their day is to tell them about your day and pause for them to join in the conversation. Model the art of telling stories about your day. As your toddler gets older try these questions as well:

1. Did you play with lots of toys today?

2. Which toy was your favourite?

3. Did you enjoy playing in the sandpit/with the paint/with your friends?

4. Was xxx (insert child’s name) at daycare today?

5. How are you feeling? (This one is really tricky, but good to start them young to start consciously considering and being aware of their feelings)

After School Questions to ask 6 – 7 year olds after school

6. Did your teacher read you a story today? Can you tell me about it?

7. What’s the funniest thing that happened today?

8. Did you have enough time to eat your lunch? Why/Why not?

9. Who did you play with today?

10. What did you play today?

After School Questions to ask 8 – 10 year olds

11. Can you give me 3 words to explain how you are feeling right now? (and you can’t say ‘hungry and tired’)

12. Did you have the opportunity to be a good friend today? What happened?

13. Did you need to trust your instincts today? What happened?

14. What was difficult or hard about today?

15. Were they any times you were bored today?

After School Questions to ask 10 – 12 year olds

16. Is there anyone you would like to be better friends with at school? Why?

17. Were you kind to anyone today?

18. What are you looking forward to learning tomorrow?

19. What was the best thing about school today/this week?

20. What would you like to know more about that you have been learning at school?

The main thing to remember about asking kids questions about school, is that it really is a three pronged focus. Social: ‘how did you engage/interact with friends’, academic: ‘what are you learning and what interests you?’ and emotional: ‘how do you feel about the social and academic environment?’ With this in mind… add YOUR questions below to make this a living document of awesome questions that are so much better than ‘How was your day at school?’

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

1 thought on “20 Questions to Ask Children Instead of ‘How was your day at school?’”

  1. I would suggest, from experience, not to ask questions at all. To offer silence and a smile and if anything share something that happened in your own day. This provides a comfortable space for true conversation to flow naturally.


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