How was school? *silence* - sound familiar? Some speech therapist tips for conversation starters

Conversation starters

Engaging children after a long day at school, finding out about their day and how they feel about certain activities can be challenging at best! However, getting the conversation started and keeping it going can make you feel closer, support their language and help them to consolidate what they have learnt during the day. To get your little one talking, you can try some of the ideas below!

Make it visual!

When we return from our holiday or an interesting day out, we may share photos with our friends. These act as a prompt to help us remember key people, events and stories. Now, school may not be a nonstop holiday but using visual information from part of child’s day will help to get them talking. For example, pull out a picture from their bag that they drew or painted and comment on it. Rather than asking your child ‘what did you do today?’ use the picture to prompt them to tell you how they made it or why it is important to them.

Children who are prompted by objects from school like paintings, drawings and photos will refer to recent events at school much more than if these objects are not present (Marvin and Privratsky 1999)

Get specific

It is really tempting to ask your child ‘How was your day at school?’. This kind of question style is after all how we communicate with others and normally what follows is a detailed explanation of events. For children, this question can be too open, have too many answers and require them to use skills to zoom in on one part of the day that stood out. To help them along, ask a specific question such as ‘Who did you sit next to today?’ ‘What happened today that was funny/scary?’, ‘What game did you play?’ This should help to trigger their memory to tell you a story.

Encourage opinions

Everyone likes to talk about themselves, children especially! So next time you are struggling to find out something about their day try asking them what they thought about something. So much can happen during the day and your child is bound to have something to say about it! Ask something like, ‘what is the best thing that happened to you today?’, ‘Who is the kindest person in your class?’ ‘Who did you share your snack with and why?’ ‘What teacher do you like the best?’

Get hypothetical

For older children, stimulate their imagination by asking them hypothetical questions. This can act as a fun and interesting way to find out more about what your child would like to change or things that they hope for. Try questions such as ‘If you could be the teacher what would you do?’ ‘If you could be friends with anyone at school who would it be?

Draw it

Getting out pens and paper can be a fun way to share some experiences from your child’s day and yours. Drawing what happened in your day can be more interesting than telling your child. Point out the people you met, spoke to and places you went to. From this, they may be encouraged to draw their day too and explain it to you.

Demonstrate it

To find out more about how child achieved something or created something at school, you could ask them to take you through the steps e.g. show me how you did that. Giving them the role of the teacher once home can be a great way for them to consolidate what they learnt and share information with you too!

Encourage reflection

Talking about our interactions with others offers a great opportunity to develop Theory of Mind. For older children, you can ask them how they think their teachers or friends see them. Offer choices for answers if your child struggles with this, it can be hard to come up with ideas themselves.  Questions like ‘Do you think X thinks you are kind/friendly etc.?’. ‘Why do you think they may say that?’ This will provide chances to talk about times where your little one shared something or helped someone.

Model sharing information.

Above we talked about drawing your day to encourage your child to illustrate theirs too. Just talking about your day will provide a prompt too and sharing your interests and activities will give them the template that they need to share theirs.

Listen, listen, and listen.

When the conversation is up and running, one of the most important things you can do is listen! Don’t worry about asking more questions. Take time to pause, listen and reflect with your child. This will ensure that you keep the conversation going!

Related articles

What is Theory of Mind?

Activities for Theory of Mind

Theory of Mind for older children