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Meaningful Conversations using Open-Ended Questions with Children

BY Savadi Gauri . The Little Skool-House At-River-Valley 

Creating meaningful conversations with pre-schoolers can be made easy by the means of open-ended questioning. Open-ended questions dissuade one-word answers such as yes or no and is also a wonderful way through which a child is able to provide more detailed responses using their curiosity, reasoning skills and creativity. The open-ended questioning technique also encourages a child to stimulate their thinking and develop their language skills.  Such questions will enable a child to focus and make meaning of his/her experiences, see possibilities, and encourage the child to use words to describe and relate their experiences. 

Benefits of open-ended questioning

When an adult engages a child in conversation using open-ended questions, it shows that you are genuinely interested about what they are doing. An open-ended question encourages a child to:

• develop their language by using different words and a wider range of vocabulary to answer the question
• provide more information and details
• express their thoughts, ideas and opinions
• be creative
• develop positive relationships by engaging in meaningful conversations
• provide a safe environment for learning as there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers

Now you may ask: "How to ask open-ended questions?"

First, let’s talk about closed-ended questioning. Opinions, thoughts, ideas are not developed in closed-ended questioning. For example, the question, "What is the colour of this crayon?" will allow the child to provide a one-word answer, with only one correct answer. This often leads to disassociation and disengagement and does not encourage further thinking. For a child to feel that his or her opinions, ideas, thoughts and feelings matter, open-ended questions are preferred over close-ended ones. As parents, we generally ask our children lots of questions, about their activities and every day encounters. Further using open-ended questions can help a child to develop thinking skills as they begin to consider how they approach, plan, carry and extend  their own ideas.  These ideas and concepts will strengthen the child’s positive self-esteem, and, self-image as well as strengthen your relationship with your child. Some examples of open-ended questions:

• Tell me about what you’re doing?
• Why do you think…?
• How do you know…?
• Why do you think this happened?
• What is likely to happen next?
• How did this happen?
• How do you think it could work?
• How are these the same./different?
• How are these different?
• I wonder why…
• Why did you…
• How did you do that?
• Show me how you…?
• Tell me about…
• Is there another way to….?
• Why do you say that….

While answering open-ended questions, a child needs to have a particular level of verbal skills. The back-and-forth questioning and answering process is also an excellent platform to hone the child’s language skills through role-modelling, paraphrasing, and exposure to new words.  Asking open-ended type of questions also stimulates creative thinking, affirms the child’s ideas, increase their confidence and self-esteem. With open-ended questions, you do not know what your child's response is going to be. 

Expect the unexpected, start having interesting conversations with your child today.