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
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.