Do you ever ask your child a question only to get a one word response? This happens to me often, especially when I’m interacting with my 7 year old nephew. All I want is a simple conversation that is somewhat meaningful and yet when I ask him, “how was your day at school?” all I get in response is “good.” After a few attempts I realized I was asking the wrong question. Do I want to know about his day? Of course! But I was giving him the opportunity to end the conversation short by asking a question that requires a one word reply, otherwise known as a closed-ended question. I needed to ask more meaningful, open-ended questions.
When adults ask children open-ended questions it provides them opportunities to expand their language development (verbal, receptive and written) and learn vocabulary. It also allows children to share how they think or feel. There is no right or wrong answer. When adults listen to children’s responses and continue the conversation it validates the child’s thoughts and feelings. Children’s creativity and problem solving skills can also be developed as a result of being asked open-ended questions.
It can be difficult breaking the habit of always asking closed-ended questions. Here are 10 examples of open-ended questions that may help adults break that habit!
- Can you describe what happened?
- Do you have any other ideas?
- How are they alike, different?
- How could we make it work?
- How did you feel when you finished it?
- Tell me about what you built, made, created.
- What can we do to get it to work?
- What did you see happening?
- What do you like best about it?
- What do you think will happen next?
When asking open-ended questions adults should remember to wait for a moment after the question is asked to allow the child time to think through their response.
Please note- I’m not saying there is not also value in closed-ended questions! They can provide a great opportunity for adults to initiate conversations with children and may be more age appropriate depending on the age of the children they are speaking with. However, I have learned that a combination of closed-ended and open-ended questions will lead to meaningful interactions between adults and children.