When parents send their preschoolers to school for the day, they may be anxiously awaiting some news about how the experience went. When the little ones get home, parents may be tempted to pepper them with questions like "How was your day?" and "What did you do?" Often, they will find the answers disappointing or incomprehensible.
It can be difficult to get an accurate and meaningful understanding of a preschooler's perspective, but there are steps parents can take to make sure they get engaged and informative answers. As a bonus, asking these questions will help strengthen their relationships with their children and reinforce their learning and growth.
Take a Mental Note of the Physical Locations of the School
Children are much more likely to open up with freshly sparked memories when they are asked about specific places and objects. Parents can be sure to make some mental notes about the space in which their children will be playing and learning. Asking "What did you see today?" is likely to get a response like, "I don't know." However, asking "What did you see in the playground by the blue slide?" is much more likely to spark an answer. Parents should make note of particular play areas, outdoor playground equipment, and furniture. These big markers are likely to stay stable from day to day, giving parents touchstones to share with their children when they discuss the day.
Make Questions Specific and Time-Bound
In addition to asking about specific places, parents can ask about specific events that they know their children experienced throughout the day. "What did you have for lunch?" is a great question that gives learners a specific memory to recall. Parents can also use this technique to help promote early prosocial skills and steer their learners' attention toward budding friendships and interpersonal dynamics.
"Who made you laugh today?" "What nice thing did you do for someone today?" Questions like these help children focus on how they are interacting with others. Even if they don't have an answer the first time they're asked, they will start to pay attention to their interactions in the future if the questions keep coming up.
Lean on Physical Reminders of the Day
Preschoolers tend to make a lot of great art and crafts throughout the day. Parents can be sure to take home their students' work and take pictures of any work that's displayed on the walls of the school. Showing students these pieces and pictures can be an excellent place to start a conversation.
"Tell me about this." "How did you make this?" "This looks like it was a lot of fun." These questions and comments coupled with visual and physical markers of the work the child has done open up memories and excitement. It also helps demonstrate that the work the child produces at school is worthwhile and meaningful, helping to build self-esteem and self-worth in young learners.
Be Prepared to Hear Some Magical Stretches of the Imagination
Children often participate in magical thinking in order to process big experiences, feelings, and connections as they mature and interact with a complicated world. The practical side effect of this is that parents can expect to hear some, well, fantastical interpretations of what went on during the day. Even if parents suspect a dragon didn't really come visit during naptime, it's important to continue listening with interest and respond with questions that ask learners to expand on these unrealistic events.
"How did you feel about that?" "I think I would be scared." "What happened next?" These kinds of questions and comments let children tell a truth that they might not be able to deliver any other way. While the story may be fictional, the emotions are real, and encouraging students to tell their stories lets them express themselves fully.
If you're ready for your little one to take the big step of getting some great learning experiences, contact Tots' Landing to learn more about our preschool programs and learn what a typical day looks like for our students.