Creating meaningful conversations with pre-schoolers can be made easy by means of open-ended questioning. Open-ended questions dissuade one-word answers such as yes or no and are 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 a conversation using open-ended questions, it shows that you are genuinely interested in 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 everyday 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…
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, increases 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.