Asking Children Open-Ended Questions
If you want to connect with your kids and encourage their curiosity, try asking them open-ended questions! Often when adults talk to children, we ask questions with specific answers: “Did you have a good day at school?” “What is your favorite color?” “Do you want an apple?” Kids will answer “yes, purple, no,” and the conversation is over. By asking open-ended questions instead, we can keep the dialogue going while encouraging childrens’ verbal and intellectual development.
Open-ended questions allow children to think beyond the obvious, provide more information or their opinions, and use their critical thinking skills. Children have the opportunity to learn and use new, richer vocabulary while describing or explaining feelings or objects. Discussing recent events in their lives helps children improve their memory. These conversations also require adults to listen attentively, letting children know that their emotions and opinions are important.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions that you can try with your child the next time you read a book, take a walk, work on a craft, or chat about your day:
“What is this?”
“Why do you think it did that?”
“What do you think will happen next?”
“Why did you choose that?”
“How did you make this?”
“What can you tell me about your day?”
“How could you improve this?”
“What would you do differently?”
“If you could do/eat/watch/make anything you wanted, what would it be?”
“What do you think about that?”
“Why do you like this?”
Children will need more time to respond to these sorts of questions than to “yes/no” questions, so slow down and give them a chance to gather their thoughts. When you ask more open-ended questions to keep the conversation going, you never know where it might lead!