The Questions I Ask My Kids Every Night… And Why

Between sports and activities, scouts and meetings, work requirements and family obligations, it seems that the moments we have in meaningful conversations are sometimes few and far between. Gone are the days where we come home from work and talk as a family while the newborn lays peacefully on my child. Gone are the days where we gather around the living room carpet and watch a toddler scoot and grunt. We have entered a new season of life and it is busy, and packed, and intense. 

In the limited amount of time where we are together, I make it a priority to ask 3 meaningful questions. They are quick questions, so my children have no idea the inferring that can occur or the subtle hints I can pick up on. I never make them go into detail if they don’t want to, but am happy to listen when they do. I will never probe for more information but I am a master at waiting silently to see if more will come.

Let me first start with what I do NOT ask. I hardly ever ask about a test score, a quiz assignment, or anything academic. As an elementary teacher myself,  I assume the teacher will keep me up-to-date on anything I need to know in that area. It isn’t that I don’t care about grades and education, after all I am an elementary teacher myself. It is that I AM THEIR MOM. When I am at home with my children, it is my job to be their MOM. 

I will keep them safe. I will love them. I will meet their basic needs. I am their mom. But there is more that I need to do as their mother: I need to know that they are happy. We live in a world where our society, our neighbors, our fellow citizens deserve to know that someone is looking out for everyone. That no one is in this world alone. That someone will do more than just dig deep and ask the questions, that they will read between the lines and hear what is being said (or not being said).

The three questions that I ask each of my children each day, from the 2-year old up to the 8-year old are as follows: 

  • Who did you play with on the playground today?
  • What did you talk about at lunch today?
  • What was the bravest thing you did today?


WHO DID YOU PLAY WITH AT RECESS TODAY?

What you can learn from asking this question:

  • Are they playing at recess?
  • Do they feel like they are a part of a group when friends, or are they by themselves?
  • Do they consistently play with the same friends or are they meeting new friends?
  • Are they running around and getting large motor exercise, or are they doing activities that don’t expend a great deal of energy?
  • Are they happy?

WHAT DID YOU TALK ABOUT AT LUNCH TODAY?

What you can learn from asking this question:

  • Are they sitting by someone?
  • Are they having conversations?
  • Do they smile while recounting lunch?
  • If they aren’t sitting next to someone, how do they feel about that?
  • Are they scared in the chaos of the lunch room?
  • Are they happy?

WHAT WAS THE BRAVEST THING YOU DID TODAY?

What you can learn from asking this question:

  • Did they TRY something new?
  • Do they take risks?
  • Is kindness in their bravery?
  • Is compassion in their bravery?
  • Are they proud of their bravery?
  • Are they happy?

Being a mom has easily been the most difficult job I’ve ever had. The sleepless nights, the constant worry, the anxiety of how it will all turn out in the end. But these 3 questions… They serve a purpose. They let me know when we’re “on track” and when we need to redirect. They are often times a starting point to a bigger conversation.

What do you ask your children to know where they are in life? 

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31 Responses

  1. merckaylin says:

    Really appreciate this blog post!! We just started navigating the world of kindergarten (or our equivalent of it in the country we live in) this year. I not only liked the questions but why they are helpful. I especially like the one about the bravest thing they did that day. Stealing it 🙂

    • April says:

      Thanks for stopping by! Good luck in Kindergarten… It’s such an exciting time! Please keep me posted on how your question asking goes… Please DO steal it!! 🙂

  2. lazysundays says:

    I love these! I rarely ask about how they’re doing in school, like you. I do care about it but I want to make sure they’re emotionally doing well and are being overall good people. 🙂

    • April says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Keli! Checking in to make sure they are emotionally well is one of our most important jobs as parents… Especially in the current world we live in!

  3. I really appreciate this. I’ve been struggling with questions to ask my 3 year old. Some I can apply now. Love the insight it will give me when he is school age.

    • April says:

      I hope these questions are useful, but now AND in the future. My almost 3 year old LOVES answering the questions… Especially about what she did on the playground 🙂

  4. These are great questions to ask and I LOVE that you don’t focus on test scores and menial things like that. When it was difficult to get info out of my son I would always ask him, What made you laugh today? Did anything make you cry? Mostly just feelings, bc those are what he could recall 🙂

    • April says:

      Hi Sarah! Thank you for stopping by and I’m glad you like the questions. I also love your additions – What makes them laugh and cry are GREAT conversation starters. You are right that tapping into their emotions are the best way to help them recall… And produce stories! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Lori says:

    These are great questions to get a little better insight into what is really going on in our kids lives. So often our questions get answered with the one word yes, fine, good. I like to add a question about what went wrong. This gives me the opportunity to praise them for trying even if it failed. Life has so many failures and it is important to teach them that it is okay to fail. Great post!

    • April says:

      Hi Lori! Thanks for stopping by. I was tired of the one word “fine” answers, which is why I started asking these. I love the addition of asking about a problem solving situation. SUCH an important skill to teach and let them practice on!! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Molly says:

    I absolutely love these questions! I am also a teacher mom and I like to ask about recess and social interactions, but I completely forgot to ask about lunch. I usually find myself asking why so much of his lunch is left uneaten. Probably because he is talking with his friends. I will make sure to include this in our conversations. Thanks so much for this great post!!

    • April says:

      Thanks so much Molly! I agree on the lunch thing. It sometimes feels like my son comes home with more than he took 🙂 The time they have at lunch is so limited anyway, and hopefully they are talking and having fun with friends at that time.

  7. Anitra says:

    These are such great questions and do not pressure kids about their academics. Sometimes a child can be unhappy or being bullied, and a parent wouldn’t know because they don’t always ask the right questions. Great post!

    • April says:

      That is one of my biggest fears as a parent, that my kids would be unhappy and I wouldn’t know. Especially with all of the scary things happening in the world! I am a firm believer that we need to do more with checking on social emotional needs.

  8. Jaimie Zaki says:

    I absolutely adore this! I do something similar with my husband, and plan to with my kids when they’re old enough… My son doesn’t quite understand the questions yet.

    My questions are: What was your favorite part of today? What was the most frustrating part of today? Name three times you felt Proud or genuinely happy (three times makes you start thinking of very simple moments).

    I love how these questions are so well thought out and tailored. I will definitely be incorprating them with my son when the time is right

    • April says:

      Thanks for stopping by Jaimie! I love your questions that you and your hubby share, and am excited for your son to be a little older to interact with questions as well. It is so fun to hear about their day and learn through their life moments. Best wishes to you!

  9. Alexandra says:

    I really like this. It’s so important to stay connected with meaningful questions that given you in glimpse into what is really going on in their lives.

  10. Tanya says:

    I really liked this. Those are three great questions that give us a glimpse into our kids’ daily lives, even if we have kids that are reluctant to share anything about their days. 😉 Thank for sharing!

  11. Such a great idea. I feel like I’m always asking my 9 year old the same question and always get the same response!

    • April says:

      Thanks! Let me know how it goes if you add some of these questions to your day with your 9-year old. I’d love to hear from you again… Good luck!

  12. Great post, time is so much of essence now, it’s really important to make every moment count, and I guess it also makes you to stay connected to their budding relationships. I must congratulate you to so effortlessly navigate such a wonderful topic. 😊

    • April says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing such kind words. Every moment certainly does count, it’s about taking the time to notice the fleeting moments!

  13. Bridget says:

    These are great ideas, and I like how you explain what a Mom can observe from their verbal and nonverbal answers. I have been asking my son what he is thankful for each night and it gives great insight to his day.

    • April says:

      Thanks so much Bridget! I also love asking my kiddos what they are thankful for. Teaching gratitude is so important in the world we live in. Best wishes to you, mama!

  14. Cherralle says:

    I love these questions! I ask: What made you happy today. and what made you sad. Then my 4YO shares her stories of the day. But i need to do more and will incorporate some of these.

    • April says:

      I love asking them what made them happy and sad during the day! Let me know if you add some of my questions and how it goes. Looking forward to hearing from you!

  15. I have a 3 yr old in preschool who I don’t get much info out of but I’ll have to remember these for the future. Great insight.

    • April says:

      My newly 3 year old loves to answer the question about the playground 🙂 HA! Good luck as your little one gets older and able to tell you about his/ her day!

  1. October 18, 2017

    […] The Questions I Ask My Kids Every Night and Why April, from Mojitos & Munchkin. April is a proud Iowan, who now lives in Minnesota with her hubby and their three cherubs. After nearly a decade teaching, she is on a break from the classroom and enjoying life as a work-from-home Mom. You can find her writing on Scary Mommy, Daily Mom, and her blog, Mojitos and Munchkins, that she uses as a creative outlet to escape the craziness that comes with life. She loves movies, cocktails, the color purple, homemade spaghetti sauce, day dates and sunny afternoons. She thinks the world would be a better place without temper tantrums, soup, the color navy, temperatures that dip below 20 degrees, and the distance between people she loves. Her insomnia allows her to pin things that she may (or may not ever) try. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. […]

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