As a parent of a preschooler, you’re already quite an expert in child communication! You understand your child’s unique ways of saying things and can decipher his or her developing language.
But even the most engaged parents with the chattiest kids can sometimes come up empty-handed when they ask about a child’s time at school. “How was your day?” or “What did you learn about?” will often generate responses of “fine,” “nothing.” or “I can’t remember.” Here are some tips to get your little one to share.
To help boost after-school conversation, our Spanish Schoolhouse carpool tags list a few phrases in both English and Spanish for parents:
- What did you do today? ¿Qué hiciste hoy?
- Did you have a good day? ¿Tuviste un buen día?
- Who did you play with? ¿Con quién jugaste?
- Sing me a song. Cántame una canción.
- I’m happy to see you. Estoy feliz de verte.
- And don’t forget: Put on your seatbelt! ¡Ponte el cinturón!
We dug a little deeper and found some additional tips from child social development experts that are helpful in any language!
Young children go through a huge range of experiences each day. Mental, physical, social, and emotional experiences that are routine and effortless for adults can be hard work for preschoolers. Processing all of this at the end of a school day can feel like information overload, so when you ask them about their day, sometimes they truly can’t remember!
It can help to start with a very specific question that’s easy to answer, like:
- “Who did you sit next to at lunch today?”
- “Who did you play with at recess?”
- “What book did your teacher read?
- “What was the favorite song you sang?”
Get Specific but Keep it Open
To build on this, speech-language pathologist Sherry Artemenko suggests using open-ended questions about specific things. Saying, “Tell me about what you did on the playground today,” encourages descriptive responses versus single-word answers. She also recommends using kids’ artwork or take-home papers to start conversations. When you say “That’s a beautiful picture of the farm! Can you tell me about what you drew?” your child gets a self-esteem boost while you get a glimpse into the school day.
Stay in the Know
If you know the basics about the preschool schedule and curriculum, you have a familiar starting point for kid-level conversation. Keeping in touch with the teachers and chatting with other parents can keep you in the loop. At Spanish Schoolhouse, the printed calendar in students’ folders can offer a jumping off point for conversations. The calendar includes the areas we focus on each month – manners, vocabulary, and weekly and monthly themes. You’ll be ‘speaking your child’s language’ when you say, “Was the Circle Time song about plants today?’, “How many community helpers visited your class this week?” or, “I heard you’re learning about the weather this week!”
Knowing the themes your kiddos are learning—plants (las plantas), farm animals (animales de la granja), communities (las comunidades), my five senses (mis cinco sentidos), or the solar system (el sistema solar)– helps you frame questions that will jog their memories after a long day away from home.
Don’t forget to check the Spanish Schoolhouse newsletter for a summary of what your child learns in English class too. Since most of our school day is in Spanish, spending time in English feels special at SSH, so kids may be eager to talk about this class!
Share About Your Day, Too
When parents share their interests, friends, challenges, and joys, it’s a great model of communication for kids. They can relate (and learn) when they hear you say, “I had a great day today. I saw a movie with grandma about…” or “I met a new friend at the gym and we talked about our families.”
Child development experts recommend making a game out of recalling events each day. Think aloud with your children about the highs and lows of the day, silly moments, times they felt sad, or anything they did that was challenging. By encouraging them to talk about a hard thing that happened that day, you can help by offering ‘emotion’ words to express themselves, like, “I bet you were frustrated when…,” or “You must have felt disappointed when…”
Just ask… In any Language!
Although SSH students spend their days immersed in another language, you can talk to your child in whichever language is most comfortable for you (or change daily). Even if you aren’t fluent in Spanish, try to ask a few questions or use a couple of Spanish phrases and let your children correct you! They will enjoy being the teacher and you’ll get a better glimpse at their Spanish level.
Kids’ desire for verbal interaction will vary based on their moods, so be sensitive to this when asking questions. Some days they may overflow with information, and other days they may only offer you a few words in reply. No matter how much response you get, asking about a child’s day (in any language!) communicates that you care. Give it a try today!