It never fails. Out in public, when my kids meet new adults, the grown-ups ask the same question: What grade are you in? Sometimes it’s preceded with How old are you? and often it is followed by some variation of a school related question: Are you glad to be off of school for the summer? or Why aren’t you in school today? Is school out today?, depending on the season. But it is almost always about school.
I have one kid who smoothly fields these questions, one who is too little to be asked (much) and one who freezes. Every. Time. My daughter does not want to be in a grade. Grades are for kids who go to public school. This isn’t something I taught, her, it’s just how she feels. We’ve tried discussing possible responses to this question but when it happens, she looks at me to explain, yet again, to another stranger who asks, “What grade are you in?”
I know they mean well. This person, out of kindness, is trying to engage with my child. These questions are automatic. It’s just what people say. There is no harm being done here. I know this. But I can’t help thinking, Is there another way to connect?
Isn’t it interesting that kids don’t ask this of other kids at nearly the same rate as adults? Here’s what kids say:
Hey, do you play Minecraft?
What’s your name?
Lets go on the swings.
Wanna play freeze tag?
Maybe adults could say those things or, in case they really don’t want to play freeze tag, here are some other ideas.
Instead of asking, “What grade are you in?” how about these questions instead:
What’s something you are really good at?
Do you have super powers? No? Well, if you could have a super power, what would it be?
What’s the best part of your day today so far?
What do you like better: the mountains or the beach?
Do you like horses/motorcycles/Legos?
Who is the silliest person you know?
What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever eaten?
Do you like to play with dolls/video games/cars/etc.? What’s your favorite?
In memory of my Uncle Fred: How’s the wife and kids?
What is the strangest sound you could possibly make?
Say, have you ever met the President of the United States/Olaf the Snowman/any minions?
Do you have any pets?
What’s your favorite animal/color/etc.?
I’m taking a survey. I think kids should get to stay up as late as they want and parents should have to go to bed early. What’s your opinion?
What would you add to this list? What other ways can we engage with kids in fun, interesting, and playful ways?