Talking about your childhood may be a question that comes up in the IELTS speaking test.
But it could also be a topic of conversation between you and some native English speakers. Or you might be asked to talk about this in an interview for college or a job.
It should be easy to talk about your childhood — it is a topic you know very well.
But for many English learners, it presents a real challenge.
They hear the question: Do you have any interesting stories about your childhood?
And they are at a complete loss at what to say.
Let’s go over what you can say about your childhood in English.
In the following guide, I want to show you many useful phrases and vocabulary that you can use to talk about all the things you did when you were a child.
Let’s take a look…
Useful Phrases to Talk about your Childhood in English
I think it’s a good idea to start by looking at some very common phrases that people use when talking about their childhood.
In My Teens
This phrase means ‘during the time you were a teenager’. A teenager is anyone between the age of 13 and 19. Often a time when we are going through some changes.
In my teens, we lived in a tiny village by the sea
In my teens, I rebelled against my parents
I was pretty awkward in my teens
I didn’t really have many interests in my teens
When I was a Kid
This means any time that you were a child. Could refer to when you were very little — 5 to 7 years old. Or as a teenager. It is all relative to the person speaking.
When I was a kid, we used to go to Epping Forest with my Dad
I hated school when I was a kid
When I was a kid, we lived in London
I would often play in the street with my friends when I was a kid
When I was a Child
This has the same meaning as ‘when I was a kid’ but more formal.
When I was a child, my mother would sometimes get angry with me
I loved to read when I was a child
When I was Younger
This could mean any time when you were younger. It is all relative to the person speaking.
When I was younger, I loved to play with my train set
I liked to watch cartoons when I was younger
When I was younger, we never had computers
When I was Much Younger
This could refer to a time when you were very young. For example, if you are in your mid-twenties and use this phrase, it could mean when you were a very small child or before you were a teenager. But again, it is relative to the speaker.
You might also use this phrase to refer to an earlier time in your childhood.
I was good at reading when I was at school, but my parents had taught me to read when I was much younger
When I was a teenager, I was always going out on my bike with my friends, but when I was much younger, I liked to stay with my mum and dad
When I was Just a Kid
Kid means child. We just ‘just a kid’ to talk about things we did as a child, and I didn’t have any experience or knowledge about life. The word ‘just’ makes it seem that we were very young and naïve.
I would spend hours watching cartoons on TV when I was just a kid
I believed in all kinds of things when I was just a kid — ghosts and monsters, things like that
When I was Small
We use this phrase in English to refer to a time when we were physically small.
I used to play hide and seek when I was small
My mother would walk me to school when I was small
When I was Young
This could refer to any time when you were younger than you are now. It is relative — so it could mean when you were any age. An old man might say when I was young, but regarding a time when he was in his thirties.
When I was young, I loved to read horror comics
When I was young, I would go out all day on my bike with my friends
I was Born In
This phrase tells the listener where you were born — very simple.
I was born in Japan
I was born in London
I was born in a small town in Nigeria
But it could also be used to tell the listener which year you were born.
I was born in 2003
I was born in 1996
But I Grew Up In
We say this to talk about where we spent our childhood years growing up. We say but if where we were born and where we grew up were different places.
But I grew up in the countryside
But I grew up in France
I was born in London, but I grew up in Manchester
I was born in China, but grew up in Australia
I was a very ……….. boy/girl
This phrase can be used to describe what kind of child you were. It can talk about your personality or your behaviour when you were very young.
I was a very naughty boy
I was a very quiet girl
I was a very clever boy
I was a very imaginative girl
I never/I always/I sometimes
A useful thing to talk about when talking about your childhood is to say the things you never did or always did. You can also talk about things you sometimes did.
I never talked back to the teachers
I never got into trouble with my parents
I always played games with my younger brother
I always liked to watch action movies on TV
I sometimes went to visit my grandmother
I sometimes liked to cook something with my mother
This is a very common phrase to use in English when talking about your childhood. You can use this phrase to talk about repeated actions or habits you had as a child.
We form the phrase like this:
Used to + Infinitive
I used to go shopping with my mother
I used to play games with my friends
When we use this phrase, we are talking about something we did as a child, but no longer do — probably because we are much older and not interested in the same things or a change of lifestyle.
Here are some examples of sentences you can make using Used To when talking about your childhood.
I used to build a snowman in the winter when I was a child
I used to be good at drawing and English at school when I was a younger
I used to love going out on my bike with my friends
As a kid, I used to go to the forest with my father and feed the squirrels
I used to go to a football match with my uncle when I was a kid
I used to get a lot of presents on Christmas Day when I was younger
Now you try!
Try to make TEN sentences about your life using the phrase Used To.
We can use this phrase to talk about repeated actions or habits that we had when we were a child.
It is formed like this:
Would + Infinitive
I would go to the beach in the summer with my family
I would take our dog Sheba to the park every day to run around
I would talk to my father for hours about all kinds of things when I was younger
We use this phrase when we are talking about our childhood and the things that we often did regularly. But we no longer do these things today because we are older and our lives have changed.
Please note that we cannot make sentences about states using I would.
Eg; I would live in England, I would hate beetroot, I would have lots of books.
When I was a kid, I would stay up late on a Saturday night and watch a movie with my parents
When I was little, I would write a letter to Father Christmas
I would help my mother do chores in the house when I was a kid
I would help my father wash his car on a Saturday
I would go to my aunt’s house and play with my cousin
I would eat fish and chips every Friday with my parents
I would study hard at school
I would read lots of books when I was a kid
Now you try!
Try to make TEN sentences about your life using the phrase I would.
It is a great idea to talk about events and stories that you can remember from your childhood. If you are talking about your childhood in the IELTS test, you should definitely tell a story. The examiner loves to hear stories, and this is an excellent opportunity for you to tell one.
You can tell a story about one of the following topics.
- playing with your friends
- going outside with your parents
- going to the beach with your family
- learning to ride a bike
- learning to read with your mum or dad
Let’s look at some examples of some stories.
When I was young, I used to go to the beach with my family. Sometimes we would go for a holiday and stay at a campsite near the sea.
We would go to the beach every day and play on the sand and go swimming in the sea. It was great fun.
There was a big rock on the beach and when we were kids, we imagined it to be a mountain. Our dad would come with us and we would climb up the big rock. From the top, we could see down the whole beach.
Then in the evenings we would eat fish and chips and drink cans of fizzy pop.
It was very simple when I think about it, but when I was a kid, it just seemed like a magical time.
I got my first bike when I was very young — about five or so. I learned how to ride it using those stabilizer wheels on the back. My dad took them off and I can remember crying at the time.
But it helped me to learn how to ride the bike properly.
When I was older — maybe around eleven — my dad bought me a bigger bike. This was a sports bike and could go much faster. It had gears and drop-down handlebars.
I would go with my friends on bike trips in the countryside.
I don’t think we went very far, but it seemed like a very long way at the time.
One time we got lost, and we had no idea where we were. We asked some policemen, and they gave us directions and we got home safely.
I’ve always loved reading books, and I put that down to my mum and dad. They encouraged me to read books from a very young age.
I learned to read when I was very young. I can remember my mum sitting down with me and helping me to read a book. She must have been very patient because she spent a long time sitting down with me and teaching me how to read.
When I was a little older, I had my own bookshelf filled full of books. I loved to lie on my bed and bury my head in a book and read a story.
By the time I was in high school, I was reading very advanced novels and other books. I have to thank my mum and dad for helping me do this.
These are some phrases you can use when introducing childhood memories.
- One of my earliest memories
- One of the first things I can remember
- I can remember years ago
- I remember
- I can remember
You Did What??
Just as it is a good idea to talk about things you did as a child and tell stories from your childhood, it is also a great idea to talk about your behaviour as a child.
Essentially, there are two types we can talk about:
Let’s look at some examples.
- Helping your parents do chores in the house
- Helping your parents with the shopping in the supermarket
- Handing your homework in on time — and all completed!
- Taking your dog for a walk every day
- Keeping your room clean and tidy
- Being polite to others — your neighbours, your teachers, and especially to your parents!
- Treating elders with respect
- Not throwing trash in the street or outside
Could be the opposite of any of the above plus…
- Spending time with the wrong friends
- Being lazy
- Not studying hard enough
- Getting up late
- Watching too much TV
- Spending too much time with screens — smartphone or computer
- Not saying please or thank you
- Breaking things
- Making your clothes dirty
Did you have any of this good or bad behaviour?
- What other examples can you think of?
- What would your parents do or say if you had any bad behaviour?
- What would your teachers do or day if you had any bad behaviour?
- Can you think of any stories from your childhood where you had good or bad behaviour?
Let’s look at some stories from peoples’ childhood about good and bad behaviour.
When I was a kid, I was really naughty. I was always getting into trouble.
Me and my friends used to play a game called Knock Down Ginger. We would quietly go up to someone’s house and knock loudly on their door.
Then we would run away laughing.
As we ran, we could hear the person whose door we knocked on shouting after us.
One day, as we ran away, I heard one of the people calling out after us. They called out my name!
When I got home later that day, my mother was waiting for me. She was furious. She knew exactly what I had been doing and said that she had received a phone call from someone down the road.
She marched me to the person’s home and made me apologise.
I stopped playing this stupid game after that.
I was a good kid at school. I liked going to school, and I liked the teachers.
Some of the other kids liked to play around and be foolish, but I always thought what we were doing in class was more interesting.
The teacher would introduce something on the blackboard and then we would have to do something in our groups. I always made sure I was in a group with the good kids so we could finish the exercise properly, but there was a group of bad boys who always played around. The teacher often had to shout at them.
When I was younger, I never cleaned my room. Right up until I was still in high school, my room looked like a terrible mess.
My mother would often come up to my room and tell me to clean it up. I had old clothes all over the floor, comics all over the place, and even dirty cups that had not been washed for weeks.
One time my mother could not take anymore. She came into my room with a big plastic bag and started dumping everything into it.
“If you don’t want to clean it, then it must be rubbish so I’m throwing it all out,” she said.
I panicked and immediately cleaned my entire room.
But after I left home for college, my room has always been clean and tidy.
As a very young child, I loved to go to the supermarket with my mum. I thought I was helping her, but I don’t know how much help I really provided for her.
I loved to push the trolley around the supermarket. My mum would pick out vegetables and other food and place it in the trolley.
And then when we got to the checkout, I refused to let my mum take anything out of the trolley. I thought that was my job.
I don’t do this today. I sometimes go down to the shop to get something for my mum, but I don’t go to the supermarket with her anymore.
My mum often reminds me of the times I helped her when I was a little kid — usually in front of all my friends!
Now you try!
Think of a story from your childhood where you displayed good or bad behaviour.
Write the story down so it is all clear in your mind. Then practise reading it out loud.
Keep trying until you can say the whole story without looking at your notes.
This will help you tremendously in the IELTS speaking test.
These are the Rules!
When we are children, we are introduced to the idea of rules.
There are rules at home, rules at school, rules in other peoples’ homes and rules everywhere.
Below is a list of phrases we can use to introduce what our parents allowed us — or didn’t allow us — to do.
- My parents made me…
- They didn’t let me…
- I had to…
- I couldn’t….
- I wasn’t allowed to….
- I would always have to…
Now let’s use these in some examples.
My parents made me do my homework every evening before dinner
My parents made me do chores around the house — they said everyone had to help
They didn’t let me play with my friends on school nights
They didn’t let me play too many computer games
I had to get up early for school
I had to help my mother around the house
I couldn’t do whatever I wanted
I couldn’t stay up too late
I wasn’t allowed to buy too many sweets or candy
I wasn’t allowed to go too far on my bike
I would always have to be home early
I would always have to clean my own room
Now you try!
- What rules did your parents have in the house?
- What kind of things did you have to do?
- What kind of things could you not do?
Use all the phrases above and make your own sentences about the rules you had in your childhood.
Write them down in your notebook and practise speaking them out loud.
First time I ever…
Childhood is a time for firsts.
Here is a list of common first experiences from when we were younger.
- a birthday party
- playing with friends
- a first family pet
- the first singer or music group that you liked
- going to the dentist
- an accident or injury while playing
- going to the seaside for the first time
- a special vacation or holiday
- getting into trouble at school — or with the police!
- teeth falling out
- the first time you had a sleepover with friends
- your first day at school
- receiving a gift or present
- going to see the doctor
- going out of the house on your own
- your first crush on a boy or girl
- a fight that took place at school!
There is so much to talk about with these First Experiences.
- What can you remember from any of the above First Experiences?
- What stories can you tell from your First Experiences?
Let’s look at some examples.
I had my first birthday party when I was eight years old. All my friends from school came to our house, and we played in the garden and ate some food.
We played some games and my mum gave everyone some jelly and ice-cream.
When I was a kid, we had a pet dog called Misty. She was a great dog — very friendly and loved to play with us when we were all young.
I don’t know what kind of dog she was as she was a mixed breed, but we thought she was beautiful.
She loved to come and play with us in the park. We would go on the slide and Misty would follow us up the steps and come down the slide with us.
Sometimes she would get a little dirty and my mum would get angry about that.
I can remember playing outside on my bike when I was about 5 or 6 years old.
I slipped and grazed my arm on a wall of a neighbour’s house. Some blood appeared, and I was really upset about it.
I remember I started to cry and shout out for my mother.
She came outside and saw me on the ground with a grazed arm. She dragged me into the house and put cold water on my arm.
It was nothing serious, but I thought it was terrible at the time.
When I was little, a had a tooth that became loose. I was really scared at the time, but my dad just laughed.
He said that he would help me pull it out. He grabbed hold of me and went to put his fingers on the loose tooth.
Of course, he was only joking, but as I struggled to free myself, the tooth fell out!
I put it under my pillow that night and I woke up to find some money in its place.
I wonder who did that?
Now you try!
Go through the list of firsts above.
Try to think of a story for each item. Write the story down in your notebook and practise reading it out loud.
This will serve you well in the IELTS speaking test.
We spend a large part of our childhood at school. So it makes sense to talk about it in the IELTS test.
Let’s start by looking at some useful phrases.
- I went to…
- I studied at…
- My teacher was…
- I was a …….. student
- I loved…
- I hated…
- My favourite subject was…
- My best friend at school was…
- I went to school by…
And here are some examples of how to use these phrases.
I went to school in London
I went to Green Meadows middle school
I studied at a very normal secondary school in England
My teacher was very friendly — all the students liked her
My teacher was very strict — many people were afraid of her
I was an average student
I was a good student
I loved going to maths class — I really liked the lesson with the maths teacher
I hated the chemistry class — I couldn’t stand the smell
My favourite subject was English — I loved reading the books and stories in class
My favourite subject was PE because I love sport
My best friend at school was a boy called Carl
I went to school by bus
I went to school on foot
Now you try!
Go through all the phrases and fill in the gaps with your information.
- What kind of school did you go to as a child?
- Did you like your school? Why/why not?
- What did you think of the teachers at your school? Were they friendly? Or very strict?
Best Friends Forever!
When we are very young, we make friends with other children around the same age as us.
Our friends could be from school or from our neighbourhood.
Some of these friends stay in our lives for many years. Sometimes all our lives.
But other friends drift in and out of our lives.
We can use these phrases to talk about friends in our childhood.
- I had a best friend called ………. when I was a kid
- We used to
- We liked to
- We hated
- We lived on the same street
- We went to school together
You can use these phrases like this.
I had a best friend at junior school called Kevin when I was a kid.
We lived on the same street, and we used to play together on our bikes. Sometimes we would go quite a long way from home and our parents would get angry when we got back tired and late.
We used to love watching cartoons together — either at his house or mine. Sometimes we would eat dinner together, always something very simple, but we thought it was great to eat together.
We liked to go fishing sometimes and there was a canal near our house where we would go with all our fishing gear. We never caught any fish, but it didn’t stop us trying every time!
The summers seemed to go on forever. It didn’t seem like two months off school, it felt more like a year of something. But one thing we both hated was when our mothers told us about school starting next week and we would have to get our school uniform ready for the new semester.
It would drive us crazy.
Now you try!
Think of a really good friend you had when you were younger.
- What kind of things would you do together?
- Did you go to the same school?
- Are you still friends today?
Think of some stories about this friend and write them down.
Then practise speaking them out loud.
This is great practise for the IELTS test.
Questions about Childhood
I want to give you a big list of questions you can use to practise talking about your childhood.
You can practise these questions by yourself — but it is much better to practise with a friend or a group.
- Where were you born? When were you born?
- Did you have a happy childhood? Give some details.
- What did you look like?
- What did you like to do when you were a child?
- What did you hate to do when you were a child?
- What kind of personality did you have as a child? Were you shy or outgoing?
- Did you have a nickname as a child? What was it?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- Did you have dreams to be a police officer or a firefighter?
- Did you want to be a scientist or a teacher?
- When did you learn to ride a bike when you were a child? Who taught you? How did you learn?
- How old were you when you had your first bike?
- Did you ever fall off your bike when you were a kid?
- Was there a kind of game that you liked to play when you were just a kid? What was it?
- How did you play this game?
- Who did you play this game with?
- Who was your best friend when you were a child?
- Did you have many friends as a child?
- How did you make friends?
- Were you good at making friends?
- What did you like to do with your friends?
- What did you hate to do?
- Did you like school when you were a kid? Why/why not?
- Were you a good student?
- Did you get good grades?
- Did you like doing homework?
- Who was your favourite teacher? Why?
- What was your favourite subject? Why?
- What did you like about going to school?
- What did you dislike about going to school?
- Were your parents very strict with you when you were a child?
- What kind of things would they allow you to do? Or not allow you to do?
- Did you like to play outside?
- How long would you play outside all day?
- Did your parents allow you to play on the streets?
- Was it dangerous to play on the streets?
- What kind of food did you like as a child?
- Could you eat anything? Or were you fussy about what kind of food you liked?
- Was there any food you hated as a child? What was it?
- What kind of toys did you like to play with as a child?
- Did you have a favourite toy as a child?
Go through all these questions one by one and try to give full answers.
The more details you can provide, the better your answer will be. Try to remember as many events and stories as you can from your childhood and talk about that.
Talking about your childhood is easy. After all, you are talking about someone you know very well — you.
But you need to use the right phrases to express what happened in your childhood. Going over all the exercises above can help you master that.
If you are preparing for the IELTS speaking test, then the subject of talking about your childhood might come up in parts one, two or three. It is a very common topic in the test.
But not only that. You may be asked to talk about your childhood in an interview or as part of an English conversation in your everyday life.
Please take some time to go through all the parts above.
The more you practise, the better you will be able to talk about your childhood.
Best of luck — and please leave a comment below!