8 Ways to Get Your Child to Talk About Their Day

Written By

Shannon Wassenaar
March 5, 2024

This article has been reviewed by Nurtured First’s team of child development experts.

Zoe’s mother bombarded her with questions as soon as she got off the bus.

“So, how was your day?!”
“Did you have fun at school!”
“Is everything okay?”

Zoe gave her typical response: a single-word answer. 


This was really discouraging for Zoe’s mother. She wanted to connect with her daughter but couldn’t get more than a few words from her. 

Many parents struggle to get their children to talk about their day. If this experience resonates with you, keep reading for eight ways to get your child to talk about their day. 

1. Ask Detailed Questions

The key to getting detailed answers? Ask detailed questions. 

Break down the day into smaller parts.

For instance, when Zoe was asked questions like, “How was your day?!” or “What did you do today?” she didn’t know how to answer since so much had happened between getting on the school bus in the morning and getting home in the afternoon. It was overwhelming to answer such a broad question.

This makes sense. When kids feel overwhelmed by our questions, they often “freeze up.” Breaking down the day into smaller parts can feel more manageable and often result in a more detailed response from your child. 

Instead of asking: “How was school?”
Try this: “Who did you sit with on the bus this afternoon?”

Instead of asking: “What did you do today?”
Try this:  “What game did you play during recess?”

Use their school schedule as a conversation starter.

Start by getting familiar with your child’s class schedule, routines, and extracurricular activities. The more specific you can get when you’re asking questions, the less overwhelming the question will feel for your little one.

Instead of asking: “How was school?”
Try this: “What country did you study in Geography class this morning?”

Knowing the names of your child’s classmates, friends, teachers, and other staff members can also help promote conversation.  

Instead of saying: “What did you do today?”
Try this: “What was it like to have Matthew’s dad come in for your science class today?”

Knowing your child’s schedule and the names of their peers also signals to your child that their world matters to you. 

2. Practice Reflective Listening

Zoe struggled to talk about her day for a number of reasons. The questions were often asked while her mom was on her phone, unpacking her school bag, or tending to chores; this made it difficult for Zoe to know if her mom was truly paying attention. 

When kids don’t feel heard, they often stop talking. Reflective listening is a great way to help children feel heard; it’s a way of communicating where the listener (the parent) seeks to understand what the speaker (the child) is saying by reflecting back their words to them. 

Reflective listening can sound like:

  • “I’m hearing that…”
  • “It sounds like…”
  • “So, you’re saying that…”

Zoe needed to hear a reflection of her own words restated back to her to assure her that her mother was listening.

When children feel like their parent is truly listening and following what they’re saying (or trying to), they will be more inclined to share. 

3. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Sometimes, the questions we ask are closing the conversations before they begin. 

Close-ended questions can be answered with a yes or no. These types of questions have limited responses and often prevent conversations from emerging. 

If you want to open up the conversation and encourage your child to talk, try asking open-ended questions. 

Open-ended questions have unlimited answers. These types of questions usually start with: “Why?” “How?” or “What?”

Closed question: “Did you have fun at school today?”
Open-ended question: “Who did you play with at recess today?”

Closed question: “Did you finish the art assignment at school?”
Open-ended question: “What’s one thing you accomplished today?”

4. Don’t Bombard Them With Questions

Instead of bombarding your child with questions as soon as they get home from school, consider reducing the number of questions or waiting to start a conversation until they’ve had some downtime.

Sometimes, less is more. Asking one specific question is more effective than bombarding your child with multiple questions that might overwhelm them. 

Sometimes, downtime is needed. Before asking questions, consider if your child would benefit from some quiet time to process their day and recharge. This space can often promote more conversation in the long term. If you sense that your child needs more time, try welcoming them home with a statement instead of a question: 

  • “It’s so good to see you! I can’t wait to hear about your day!”
  • “I’m happy you made it home! We can talk about your day when you’re ready.”

Tip: Create a jar full of questions to choose from. Label this the “Question Jar” and invite your child to pick out a question to playfully ease into conversation. 

5. Show Genuine Interest

Children are much less inclined to talk to you when you’re visibly uninterested in what they have to say. To show your child that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, remember these three things:

  1. Avoid distractions. Whether this means putting your phone down or moving to a quiet setting, avoiding distractions can show your child that you really want to hear what they have to say. 
  1. Be mindful of eye contact and body language. When possible, make eye contact with your child as you listen to them so they know they have your undivided attention.
  1. Avoid interrupting. If you have something important to share, wait until your child has completed their sentence. If there are interruptions outside of your control, be mindful to acknowledge this to your child and articulate to them when you plan to return to the conversation. 

This might sound like: “Could we please pause? I really want to hear what you’re saying. I’m going to submit our order, and then you can finish what you were saying.”

6. Talk While Engaged in Another Activity Together

Part of the reason Zoe struggled to talk to her mother was that it felt forced and awkward. 

The only time Zoe felt comfortable talking was during a board game or when playing with their family pet. Having an external distraction often helped to take some of the pressure off for Zoe and her mother. The conversation flowed more naturally and didn’t feel as forced.

If you’re finding it challenging to get your child to talk, consider asking questions while engaging in another activity. Whether it’s shooting hoops in the backyard, colouring together, or washing dishes, engaging in an activity together can make conversations feel more natural. 

7. Create Rituals and Expectations

Some kids struggle to share because they don’t know how to put their experiences into words. It can be helpful to hear you share your day first to give them an example. 

Having a ritual of sharing a “rose” and a “thorn” can help give them a framework to use and will facilitate conversation.  

How this works: each family member takes turns sharing the highlight of their day (a “rose”) and the trickiest part of their day (a “thorn”).  

Making this a routine at the dinner table can also help your child know what to expect. This can give them some confidence when answering questions because they can predict what you’re going to ask and can prepare themselves in advance. 

8. Acknowledge and Validate Their Feelings

Zoe often stormed to her room or ignored her mother’s attempts at conversation for two reasons: her feelings were being misunderstood or minimized. 

When Zoe would tell her mom about a situation at school, her mom would often say:

“Let it go.” 
“That’s no big deal.”
“Stop worrying.”

Her mother was unintentionally making her feel ashamed for expressing herself. Telling her mother about her feelings didn’t feel safe. 

Sharing personal feelings with others requires a level of safety and trust; this is especially true for children. To establish safety and trust with your child, acknowledge and validate their feelings. 

Instead of: “You’re okay!” or “Don’t worry about it!”
Try acknowledging their feelings: “I hear you. You’re feeling really anxious. That makes so much sense!”

Acknowledging your child’s feelings is a powerful way to connect with them and lay the groundwork for more conversations. 

Start With Simple Shifts

Zoe’s mom used strategies from this blog to get her daughter to talk about her day. Not every single strategy worked for them, but with consistency, time, and effort, she found more ways to establish connections and have conversations with her daughter. 

This is possible for you, too! Making simple shifts to how you listen, the questions you ask, or the timing of your questions can significantly impact the quality of conversations you have with your child. 

For more support, check out The School Toolkit, which includes over ten worksheets to help your child navigate friendships, the school environment and routine, tough separations and more!

Explore The School Toolkit

Article By

Shannon Wassenaar
Shannon is a Registered Psychotherapist, Content Specialist, and Highly Sensitive Parent with a passion for understanding, and promoting human relationships. Shannon holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology, and a Masters degree in Psychotherapy. She began her professional career as a trauma therapist, and continues to support families from a trauma-informed perspective. Shannon uses her knowledge and experience to create educational content for parents, and treatment plans to help families flourish. In her spare time she enjoys taking long walks, playing recreational sports, and sipping a hot latte at a local cafe.