Helping children to answer questions

Do you find yourself asking your child lots of questions and never quite getting a reply? Getting children to answer the question is a common conundrum. Here’s five suggestions to help children answer questions.

Asking kids QUESTIONS... getting them to REPLY!

Do you really need to ask the question? When kids aren’t talking very much, it’s easy for us to get into quiz mode. But, there are more helpful things we can do to support language development. Let’s remember to give, not quiz. When a question pops into your head, try flipping it to a comment. Instead of asking ‘What’s that?’ you might say ‘Oh, it’s car!’ Instead of ‘What you doing?’ you might say ‘Wow, you’re jumping!’

If you know the answer, don’t ask the question. There’s huge value in us modelling language, rather than testing to see if a child can say the word. You’re still helping them learn when you model instead of ask the question. This also means that you can save your questions for things that you are genuinely curious about.

Flag the question. Our children have so much to pay attention to when they’re learning new skills. So, it can be easy for them to miss a question we want to ask them. Try giving your child a cue, like raising your hand and saying “I have a question!”

Choose your question carefully. Some questions are much harder than others. ‘Why’ questions are the very hardest to answer. For more information, check out this post on understanding question levels.

Give visual clues. If you’re asking your child to make a choice, then holding up the items is a useful way to help them understand and respond. Here’s more ideas for making language visual.

Pick a focus question. In speech and language therapy sessions, we’ll often pick a focus question, such as ‘who’ or ‘where’. These are important questions for developing language (here’s more information on teaching important ‘wh’ questions). Having a focus can help cue your child in and help you to come up with relevant questions in the moment.

Finally, embrace the awkward silence! Give your child quiet thinking time to process your question and consider their response. Avoid the temptation to dive in and repeat or rephrase the question. Give it time, allow for the pause.

Did I miss anything? Let me know your ideas for using questions in the comments below.

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