I have a preschooler. I have a preschooler who loves to talk. I have a preschooler who loves to talk about everything but school.
Honestly, I had no idea that the ambiguous answers to the standard, “How was your day?” would start so early. I imagined him getting home from school, snuggling in close, and telling me every detail of his day. Instead, I often feel like I’m pulling the teeth of a middle-schooler.
“How was your Day?”
“Fine,” he says.
“What did you do?”
“Nothing,” he shrugs.
“What did you learn?”
“I don’t remember!” he calls over his shoulder as he runs outside to wrestle the dog and fight the imaginary bad guys that are attacking our home.
I like to think we are working to foster a place for our children to talk to us. I like to think that we encourage them to share things with us. I want to build a home with foundations of trust and safe places. I want to celebrate the good and work through the hard. I want to hear them. Not just their words, but I want to hear who they are, what they dream, and what they’re afraid of. Basically, I want my children to want to talk to me.
Maybe I’m chasing a pipe dream here. But I’m going to chase it with everything I’ve got. So I started thinking about how to get my preschooler to talk about his days. His days are important. I want him to know that. The things he says and the things that are said to him matter. What he’s learning or struggling with, I want to walk beside him in. So I found it helpful to break it down into 3 areas (coincidentally, it’s the same 3 topics I pray over my children each night before bed, so I didn’t feel like I was reinventing the wheel or anything). Those 3 areas are: his heart, his head, and his hands and feet. Here are 5 questions from each area that you could use to get your preschooler talking after school.
- How did you show kindness today? Where did you see kindness happen around you?
- Did anything make you feel sad/mad today?
- What is something that made you feel happy/laugh today (at recess, during table time, or with your friends)?
- Did you feel brave, scared, excited, shy, etc.? Tell me more.
- Was anyone else’s heart sad today? Did you have a part in that? If the answer is yes: How did you/can you make it right? If the answer is no: What can you do to show love to their heart if they are still sad tomorrow?
- What is something true you remembered today?
- What is something new you learned today? (If the answer is nothing, pull from the curriculum. I saw you were working on the letter E today. What is a word that starts with the letter E?) Great job using your brain to remember what you learned!
- What is something your teacher talked about that you already knew today? (Because, in case you didn’t know, they already know everything, even at the age of 5.)
- What is something that made you think hard today? What can we do to help your brain remember all the hard work it did?
- Did you hear anything that was untrue today or that you’re not sure is true? Let’s talk about it and figure it out.
Their Hands and Feet:
- What is something you worked on with your hands? Did you build something? Break something? Fix something?
- Did you walk anywhere new today? How about the tall slide that you were nervous about? How did you help your feet be brave and keep going?
- What is something you touched on the playground that felt rough/smooth/bumpy/weird?
- Tell me when you had to be still today and your feet couldn’t take you places. When is it hard to sit still? How did you use self control?
- Did you use your feet to pretend? Did you pretend to be a soldier marching? Did you use your feet to dance/tiptoe/stomp etc.?
This list is not an exhaustive one, as the possibilities are endless. But they are real examples of the types of questions I ask my son every day on our way home. I don’t use them all every day (that would be hard on both of us), but I always ask at least three questions, one from each category, with follow ups. He’s come to expect them now, which is so fun. I can tell he’s spent some time thinking about which questions I’ll ask and he’s excited to tell me.
That’s really what I’ve learned: he’s excited to tell me. I just wasn’t asking the right questions before. He didn’t have the tools. I try to be as specifically vague as possible (a real technique that I made up in this very moment)—without leading him. I try to sandwich hard questions in-between fun questions. This is mostly because, if you haven’t met a preschooler, they can tend to be a tad dramatic. I certainly want to hear about the girl who told him he was zero years old (a true tragedy that happened to him), but I want to make sure he sees a little bit of good in every single day. So we spend a little more time on kindness, generosity, and the unparalleled joy of being line leader.
Maybe, hopefully, we are being intentional enough now that he’ll still want to come to us when the hard, ugly things happen later in life. And I hope he’ll always want to share his daily triumphs with us, knowing we are ready to celebrate even the smallest victory with him. I’m certain we’ll hit a rough patch in high school when we are the lamest parents ever and could NEVER understand what he’s going through. I know we can’t avoid that entirely. No one is immune to teenage hormones. So check back in a few years and I’ll let you know how that’s going.
But for right now, right here, I’m so thankful for everything we’re both learning in preschool.