By Kelly Gunzenhauser

It’s getting closer … that time of year where we start adjusting our minds to think about school days instead of pool days! We’ll be running blogs on TMoM over the next few weeks that will help you prepare your children for preschool through highschool. You can also always scroll through our Education category to find exactly what you might be looking for.

Today’s blog is one that might help you learn some ways that you can communicate with your child in hopes of getting more than a one-word answer about their school day. This blog was written by one of our loyal readers years ago when her son started Kindergarten, but these tips can apply to students even a bit older. Feel free to comment at the end if you have tips of your own to add! ~Rachel H.

My older son has started kindergarten. It’s been a big change from cozy preschool. I feel a little lost, and my son has done the big-kid-clam-up. He won’t tell me what happens at school! Lots of kids do this. They just lived it; they do not want to talk about it again. Sheesh, Mom, give it a rest. But I am just so darn curious. OK, nosy. Here’s how I tried to find out what really happened.

First, I learned to ask better questions. The answers for, “How was your day?” do not tell me much. Yes-or-no questions do not really work, either. (“Did you eat snack today?” “Nope.” “Did you do any math?” “Sure!”) So, I have tried to craft better questions, “What was the best/hardest/most fun thing you did today?” pulls out more detail.

Second, I pay attention to when I ask. In the car on the way home is an okay time, but we only have a five-minute drive. Dinnertime is better since we all take turns talking about our days. I try not to do it at bedtime. He’ll talk to me, but thinking about kindergarten keeps him awake. I know this, of course, because of idea #3, which is:

I listen to my kid play alone. After the second night of kindergarten, my son took his cars to bed. (That’s normal, for us. Who cares if they are hard and bumpy to sleep with?) We turned on the monitor and heard, “Who knows what a hockey puck looks like? Raise your hands. Okay, now who has seen a hockey game?” He was “teaching” his cars. This idea led to my fourth idea, which was:

I asked him to play school with me. Oh goodness. Dad, little brother, and I all got in the floor in front of the chalkboard easel. I watched my little five-year-old transform into a teacher. He explained the behavior monitoring system, which took up a huge portion of the “lesson.” He taught us how to transition to centers, how to line up for the bathroom, how loud we could be (level 1 or level 2 voices, everyone!), and then he did a letter recognition exercise. It was hilarious to see him in total control. In fact, when it was time to stop playing and take a bath, he had a hard time giving up the control—and the play—and a meltdown ensued. He is begging to do it again, though.

My little guy is still just three. I know he will spill the beans when he gets home from his first day of preschool today. And he’s that kind of kid, anyway. But hopefully, my older one will want to play school for a while. I learn as much from him playing school as he does at real school!