English for Conversations about CHILDHOOD – Questions, Answers, Vocabulary

Can you remember all the things you did as a child? Childhood is a very common conversation topic which English speakers love to discuss. In this post, you will find out different ways to talk about your younger self using questions, real English phrases and natural vocabulary.

Common questions about childhood

Here are a few very common questions about childhood. You might hear questions like these in conversations with English speakers or in the IELTS speaking test.

  • What is your earliest childhood memory?
  • What kind of childhood did you have / What was your childhood like?
  • Did you have a happy childhood?
  • What kinds of things did you do when you were a child?
  • Tell me about a funny thing that happened when you were a child.
  • Do you come from a big family? (NOT: “Did you come…?”)
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Who did you spend time with as a child?

How to describe your earliest childhood memory in English

Follow the stages below to talk about your earliest memories of childhood:

1. Start the topic

You can answer, “What is your earliest childhood memory?” by starting with one of these phrases:

  • One of my earliest memories is…
  • Well, I guess my earliest memory is….
  • I think my earliest memory must be…

2. Give a short answer (noun phrase)

Then, follow up with a noun phrase, to say exactly what the activity was:

  • …Seeing my sister riding her pony.
  • …Hearing my dad’s car revving up on the drive.
  • …Climbing up onto a cupboard to get a biscuit.
  • …Opening a present on my birthday.
  • …Waking up in a tent while we were camping in Wales.
  • …Seeing my new baby sister.

3. Follow up

Try to guess at how old you think you were:

  • I guess I must have only been about four.
  • I can’t have been much older than about four.
  • I must have been only about four at the time.

4. Finish up

Finally, say how well you can still remember this event:

  • That (memory) is still crystal clear (in my mind).
  • I can remember that like it was yesterday!
  • It seems like (it was) only yesterday.
  • That (memory) is still so clear in my mind.

Bring it together:

“Well, one of my clearest memories is…climbing up onto a cupboard to get a biscuit. I guess I must have only been about four. I can remember that like it was yesterday!”

Talking about random memories from childhood

Sometimes when we talk about our childhoods in English, we don’t want to go into too much detail about things that happened. Instead, we just try to give a “snapshot” of things we used to do – or things we used to enjoy doing.

1. Start the topic

Start with a “when” phrase:

  • When I was..
    • ..a kid / a child,
    • ..a little girl / boy,
    • …. years old,
    • ..little / small,
    • ..very young…
    • ..growing up,

2. Give details

Use “used to” or “would” to describe the activity you did or enjoyed doing:

  • I always loved it when it snowed / I’d always love it when it snowed / I always used to love it when it snowed.
  • I loved / I used to love playing in the snow.
  • I used to love the feel of the snow on my face.
  • I’d always have snowball fights in the garden with my brother.
  • I often used to stay outside and play football for hours on end.
  • I used to play with dolls for hours with my cousin.
  • I’d often spend a lot of time looking for insects.
  • I used to love spending time on my own.
  • I used to enjoy doing drawings and making models and things.

Bring it together

When I was little, I always used to love playing in the snow, and I’d often have snowball fights with my brother. I always loved it when it snowed, and… I used to love the feel of the snow on my face. It’s such a happy memory for me.

Recalling one-off childhood events in English

When we tell one-off stories from our childhoods, we follow a sequence of expected phrases. We often set the scene by using past continuous verb form (I was playing in the street….) followed by a past simple form (suddenly, I realised). This allows us to contrast things that were happening already with things that happened next.

1. Introduce the memory

  • So, I can remember once (one time) when..
  • One thing I can remember quite clearly was when..
  • I can clearly remember when..
  • One thing I’ll never forget was when..
  • One thing that sticks in my mind was when..
  • One thing that springs to mind was when..
  • One thing that really stands out for me was when.

2. Set the scene

  • ……I was playing in a street near our house, and..
  • ……my mum had taken us to see a movie, and..
  • ……we’d all gone out for a meal in a restaurant, and…

3. Say what happened

  • ……suddenly, I realised I couldn’t find my way back home.
  • ….when we got inside the theatre, my little brother starting crying…
  • ….my dad ordered this curry, and it was too spicy for him.

4. Finish the story

  • I felt so scared because there was no one around to help me.
  • …so my mum gave him some sweets to calm him down.
  • He had to drink a whole jug of water, and we couldn’t stop laughing.

Bring it together

One thing that springs to mind was when…I was playing in a street near our house, and…suddenly I realised I couldn’t find my way back home. I felt so scared because there was no one around to help me.

Childhood: useful phrases

  • be born in – I was born in a small town in France, called Gacé.
  • be raised – I was raised in a big family.
  • come from – I come from quite a big family.
  • bring up – I was brought up by my dad / My mum brought us up on her own.
  • upbringing – my parents gave me a good upbringing (they brought me up well).
  • grow up – I grew up in a big family.
  • spend – I spent (some of / most of / a long period of) my childhood (living) in London.

Talking about childhood ambitions in English

  • I always wanted to be a builder / an astronaut.
  • I always used to tell people that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.
  • I was always thinking about how cool it would be to fly a plane.
  • I always dreamed of being a sailor.

Talking about good and bad childhood behaviour

Bad behaviour

  • I was always getting in trouble.
  • We were always getting told off for things.
  • I was often late for school.
  • My brother and I were always making my dad angry.
  • My dad would always get angry with my brother and me.

Good behaviour

  • I was quite well-behaved.
  • I don’t remember getting into trouble very often.
  • I didn’t usually get told off for things.
  • I think I was quite a good child, on the whole.

Basic vocabulary for talking about childhood

Words for children of different ages

  • a baby (some babies) – a child from 0-2 years old
  • a toddler – a child of 2-3 years old
  • a child (some children) – usually means a young person between 0 -12 years old

Words for other young people

  • a teen / teenager – a young person aged 13-19 years
  • A youngster
  • A kid (slang)
  • A nipper (UK slang)
  • A sprog (UK slang)

Childhood word combinations (colls)

  • A happy / carefree childhood
  • An unhappy / difficult / lonely / boring / troubled childhood
  • Enjoy / cherish your childhood
  • Recall / remember / forget your childhood
  • Relive / revisit your childhood
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