Start having family talks with kids

How do you conduct conversations with a preschooler? Once families have a little practice they are amazed at young children’s insight. They are so fascinating and honest. Unfortunately, Americans often spend only 15 minutes a day just talking with young children.

Preschool teachers have some suggestions to get that sparkle children have when receiving complete attention from a loved one.

Focus on

the child

First of all, turn off all technology to focus on them.

Sit down or find some other way to get to their eye level. Young children need to see facial expressions, especially smiles. Keep your voice gentle. Show children how it looks to really listen carefully. Nod. Say,” Oh and Mmm- hmm. Tell me more about that.” React in some way. Do not interrupt.

Begin sentences with “What are some, who are some, when are some? They suggest you need a long answer. Then ask a follow-up question.

Avoid questions that can be answered with one word, yes, or no. Instead ask, “What are some foods that you like on the grocery list? I’ll read the list for you.” Read the list. Then pause long enough to give them time to think. The pausing takes practice.

If children bring home pictures, say, “Wow, look at these! Tell me about them.”

If they show you Bubbles their pet fish ask, “What are some things you like about Bubbles?” Ask them to explain.

After reading a book together, ask some questions to start a conversation. What are some things you liked about the story? What were some funny parts?

Include questions about feelings. What are some happy and fun times you had at school today? You look sad (upset, angry). Tell me about it. What are two good things that happened and one you wish didn’t happen?

Play a game or other fun activity and talk. Go for a talk-walk.

Talking jar

Some families keep a jar of conversation starters written for car trips and meals. First they go over the rules. Everyone takes a turn and asks follow up questions to get more information. No interrupting. Look and act interested. Respect each answer.

Here are samples: What are the best parts of your day? If you could be a character in a book (movie) who would you be? How were you kind and helpful to others today? If you could be an animal, which would you be? What are some things you do that show you are a good friend? What are you really grateful for today? What are your least favorite chores to do around the house?

What are some things you want to learn how to do? What super powers would you like to have and how would you use them?

For more family interaction ideas see or pod casts at

Editor’s note: Grandparents Teach ,Too is a non profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. Writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers.Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan (PAM), Upper Peninsula Association for the Education of Young Children (UPAEYC), Northern Michigan School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, and NMU Center for Economic Education.