15 Ways to Get an Awesome Response to "How Was Your Day?"

These questions can lead to more meaningful conversations with kids

Sometimes, it feels like the moments when you can learn about your school-age child's day or have a meaningful conversation with your teen are few and far between. In a rush to connect in a limited amount of time, many parents default to asking "How was your day?" on the way home from school or at the dinner table. And in response, they often receive a standard one-word answer like "fine" or "good."

Of course, these one-word answers are not good fodder for a healthy discussion. If this happens to you, it is time to get creative when it comes to asking your kids about their day. Doing so will help you have a more meaningful conversation and cultivate deeper connections. Here's how you can get a better response to the age-old question "How was your day?"

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Aim to ask general, open-ended questions to get your child thinking and responding more freely. For example, ask "What was the bravest thing you did today?" Or "What was the kindest thing you saw at school today?" Or "What happened at recess today?"

Avoid Pressuring Your Child

Often, despite your best intentions, kids can perceive questions as judgment and/or worry about disappointing you. For better results, avoid asking about a test, a grade, or anything academic, or about practices and performances.

For many kids, questions that deal with their performance in some way create anxiety and cause them to shut down. They may end up either feeling defensive or anxious about meeting expectations. Instead, aim for more neutral or fun topics.

Be an Active Listener

Once you ask your child a question, let them answer. Continue listening even if they only give a short answer. Be patient and wait silently to see if there is more to come. Or ask simple, agenda-free follow-up questions. Many times, kids will offer more information if you demonstrate that you are listening but not judging. Offering too much advice or trying to fix something that they need to deal with themselves also can cause kids to shut down.

It is also a good idea to refrain from probing for more information than your child or teen wants to offer.

Reframe the Question

Instead of asking a generic question, mix it up a bit. Unique questions teach kids the art of conversation, and they also provide you with a better picture of what is going on in their lives and in their hearts.

You can try these prompts, but you will also want to gear your questions to your child's age, interests, and activities. For instance, ask "What are you learning about in math class?" one day, and "What did you do in gym class?" on another. Slowly rotate through your child's class schedule.

19 Alternatives to "How Was Your Day?"

  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • What was the hardest thing you did today?
  • If you could pick three friends to play with/hang out with, who would they be and why?
  • Who put a smile on your face today?
  • What was your least favorite part of the day?
  • If today was a color, what would it be and why?
  • What is one creative thing you did today?
  • Tell me about a book you are reading.
  • Were you bored today? Why or why not?
  • Tell me about a problem you solved today.
  • Was today a fast day or a slow day? Why?
  • What rule do you have to follow that makes no sense?
  • Did anything happen today that made you proud?
  • Did you face any particular challenges today?
  • What was the kindest thing you did today?
  • Do you have any questions for me about your day?
  • What are you excited about right now?
  • If you could pack anything in your lunch tomorrow, what would it be and why?
  • What is the most important thing you learned today?

Use Time Together Wisely

When you are traveling in the car or sitting at the dinner table together, your child may be more open to talking because there are limited distractions and it's a designated time to be together. Eating is a time that conversation tends to flow naturally—and you're all already at the table. You can begin by talking about the food, then segue into other topics. This strategy also works when you are doing other activities together, such as yard work, chores, or walking the dog.

There also is something about riding in a car that often gets kids to open up and share. Part of it has to do with the fact that they do not have to make eye contact with you unless they want to. They can look out the window if they want. These are the best times to get your kids to talk about their day.

Reduce Distractions

Make captured time together count by reducing distractions while you strike up a conversation. Turn down the radio or turn off the TV. Ask them to put away their devices (and put away your own) so you can focus on talking to one another about life.

Turn It Into a Game

Sometimes, getting the conversation going at the dinner table can take a little effort and creativity. Some parents find that using a family fun night or conversation games like "High/Low" or "Would You Rather?" are really helpful.

To play "High/Low," everyone at the dinner table takes turns telling the others one high point of the day and one low point of the day. Hearing what your kids consider a high point and what they consider a low point can provide a lot of insight into their lives and act as a conversation starter.

"Would You Rather" is a fun way to interact with one another by using absurd questions like "Would you rather drink one jar of pickle juice or smell like a dill pickle for a week?" or "Would you rather have a water balloon fight every day or a food fight once a week?"

There are no rules as to what the questions can or can't be about. Let everyone take turns making up questions.

Connect Over Popular Culture

If they're reluctant to talk about their day, try asking about culture topics and/or their interests. Ask about their favorite movies, video games, books, celebrities, sports, influences, social media, or music. Kids often get excited about talking about media, teams, or games that they enjoy. Once they get going telling you about an influencer, song, or video they like, they may become more open to sharing about their day-to-day life, too.

Make Sure You Are Paying Attention

Depending on your child, you may only get one chance to ask a question and receive an answer. Put all your focus on the conversation, avoid thinking about work or your to-do list, and give your child your full attention. Then, ask your question and wait for the answer. Be quiet and really look at your child while they speak.

Giving kids space and the opportunity to answer is as important as asking the right question. 

Let Them Do Most of the Talking

Once your child has answered you, continue to sit quietly. Sometimes, kids remember something else they want to add or they think of another story they want to share with you that had nothing to do with your initial question. 

Learning to sit tight not only gives your child the space to share but also improves your active listening skills. Look at your child and make eye contact if you can. Then, concentrate on watching your child and listening. You should not only listen to your child's words, but you should also pay attention to what is not being said. 

Show Them You Are Interested

Remember, you are the person your child wants to share with—even if it can be hard for them. Being a good listener shows your child that you are present and that you are interested in them. 

There’s something about someone who really listens to you that says, "I care about you." When kids know that they have unconditional love and concern from you, it boosts their self-esteem and opens up the path for good communication for years to come.

Stay Available

Kids can be unpredictable when it comes to sharing about their day. They may not seem that interested in talking to you when you ask them about their day in the car or play a conversation game at the dinner table. But later, as you walk into their room to say goodnight, they suddenly want to tell you about the fight they had with their best friend.

Whenever your child chooses to share, make every effort to stop and listen to what they have to say.

They are making an effort to share with you, and you want to do what you can to encourage this type of conversation. The more often you show your kids that you are interested in their lives, the more often they will open up to you.

Make Time for Them

Do your best to make time for them—but sometimes it will be challenging. If you are doing something that cannot be interrupted, ask if you can talk in 15 minutes and then follow through with your promise.

You want to be sure your kids know you are available to them. If you are busy or preoccupied every time they want to talk to you, then you will likely get the same response from them when you reach out about their day. They will be too busy or preoccupied to truly engage in a conversation with you.

Talk About Yourself First

Help your conversations to feel less like an interrogation by by talking about yourself or your own day first. Try talking about something that happened during your day or something that you are working on or looking forward to doing. Mention what you learned or saw at work or at home. Talk talk about a memory you have from your own childhood.

Don't Take One-Word Responses Personally

If, no matter how hard you try, your child still seems to answer everything with a conversation-ender like, "Yes," "No," "Fine," or "I don't know," don't stress out too much. Do your best to accept that they may just prefer not to share a lot.

Either way, continue to try to connect on some level, whether it's through an activity, such as playing a game together, or conversation.

A Word From Verywell

Even if you don't end up talking specifically about your child's day, you may still end up having a great conversation about another topic. Questions beyond "How was your day?" help you get to know your child better. And, the time you spend talking and listening reinforces to kids that you are interested in them and value their thoughts, experiences, and opinions.

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McAdams TA, Rijsdijk FV, Narusyte J, et al. Associations between the parent-child relationship and adolescent self-worth: a genetically informed study of twin parents and their adolescent childrenJ Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017;58(1):46–54. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12600

By Elizabeth McGrory
Elizabeth McGrory is a certified professional coach who offers life and career coaching for working moms.