“What did you do today?” Help your child tell you about their day.
“Did you have a good day?” “What did you do today?” “Did you have fun with your friends?” Many parents love to ask these questions at the end of a day spent away from their child. But the answers are often brief: “Yes.” “Nothing.” “I don’t know.” Even when that’s the case, encouraging your child to tell you about their day is a good idea. In addition to showing that you’re interested in who they are and what they do, this habit helps with language development.
Developing language skills by talking about their day
Asking your child questions about their day will encourage them to talk. When they tell you about something they did, your child is developing their vocabulary and practising forming sentences at the same time. They’re also learning to organize sentences in a logical way and to follow a sequence. What’s more, by asking questions and listening to your child, you’re showing that you care about their experiences.
For most children, the ability to tell stories develops gradually. Your child might start by talking about real-life events, such as an argument they had with a friend or how they had lunch with Grandpa, and then eventually share stories they’ve made up.
Here’s an overview of what your child might talk to you about based on their age:
- Around age 2: Your child is starting to talk about events in very simple terms, especially when something makes an impression on them. For example, they might say: “Victor made a boo-boo! Not nice!”
- Around age 3: Your child is able to speak more clearly about things they did that day. They’re able to talk about recent events with more ease, but they don’t necessarily pay attention to the order in which events happened.
- Around age 4: Your child’s stories are becoming more organized: “We ate outside and then we played in the yard.” They can refer to past events more easily by saying when they happened in the day: “We worked on crafts in the morning.”
- Age 4 to 5: Your child is able to talk about their day while making connections between events and following a certain order. They can tell a story in more detail and provide more information. However, your child may still have trouble with time-based concepts such as yesterday or tomorrow.
Helping your child talk about their day
Before age 3
- Ask someone who was with your child to tell you about the major things they did that day. Doing so will make it easier to understand your child and ask them questions when they talk about their day.
Children are often tired when they get home from daycare. Give your little one time to relax before asking them about their day.
- Ask questions that give your child choices, such as “Did you play with Charles or with Elizabeth?”
- Ask them specific questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. For example, instead of saying, “Did you have fun with your friends today?” you could say, “Who did you play ball with?”
Age 3 and onward
- Help your child think of a short sequence of events that happened during the day, and then ask them to tell you more about it. For example: “You got up, you ate cereal, and then what did you do?”
- Take pictures of your child during one of their daily routines and make a game of putting the pictures in the right order. Ask your child to explain what they’re doing in each one. This activity will help them understand the concept of a sequence and encourage them to talk about what they do every day.
- Ask your child about their favourite moments of the day, then tell them yours. If you notice that they’re struggling to find the right words, try going first so they can mimic you.
- Use humour and whimsy to encourage your child to talk about their day. When your child starts understanding jokes, you can say things to make them laugh: “Did you eat a bowl of spaghetti or a piece of chocolate cake as big as the house?” This will encourage them to talk more.
If they don’t like talking about their day . . .
Some children don’t like talking about their day. Some adults don’t like it either! It’s important to respect your child’s personality and avoid bombarding them with questions. There are other ways to talk with your child, such as by reading a book with them and commenting on the story.
Things to keep in mind
Talking to your child about their day will help them learn to construct sentences and expand their vocabulary. It’s also a great way to let them know you’re interested in them.
Your child’s storytelling abilities will develop gradually as they learn to situate events in time.
You can help your child talk about their day by asking them what their favourite moment was and then sharing yours.
Scientific review: Marie-Ève Bergeron-Gaudin, M.Sc., speech-language pathologist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: October 2019
Sources and references
Bergeron-Gaudin, Marie-Ève. J’apprends à parler : le développement du langage de 0 à 5 ans. Montreal, Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 184 pp.
Bouchard, Caroline. Le développement global de l’enfant de 0 à 6 ans en contextes éducatifs. 2nd ed., Quebec City, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2019, 516 pp.
Pesco, Diane, and Andréanne Gagné. “Scaffolding narrative skills: A meta-analysis of instruction in early childhood settings.” Early Education and Development, September 2015, pp. 1–21.
Church, Caroline Jayne. Good night, I love you. Scholastic Canada, 2012, 20 pp.