If you are an inquiry-based teacher or parent, these open-ended questions are perfect for you. Inquiry questions for kids are a way to get kids thinking on their own terms and without any barriers. Furthermore, these types of questions allow the adults in a child's life to gather information in order to better guide the child. Above all else, it is quite exciting to observe a child in the midst of this type of thinking. Simple questions often ignite creative thinking and ideas not previously imagined by the child.
Open-Ended Questions for Kids
One of my big “things” as a parent is to allow children to solve problems and to come up with solutions creatively. In other words, I desire children to think critically about a problem and to embrace failure as an opportunity to iterate and to be better. In addition, I live by this approach in whatever we happen to be doing in life – brushing teeth, building with legos, writing, climbing, changing the laundry, hiking, or any kind of STEAM project.
What is the big deal about open-ended questions?
Before we dive in, I thought it would be helpful to go over why open-ended questions are so critical in a child's learning & development.
Asking leading questions is similar to interviewing a witness on trial. Above all, the goal is to gather as much information as possible. Similarly, I use this approach in my parenting. The same can be said for asking close-ended questions, or questions with a single word answers such as “Yes” or “No”.
As you can conclude close-ended questions can be answered without a lot of detail. Likewise, multiple choice questions are only slightly better because the child can simply guess or choose what he believes you would like him to answer. Finally, let's go into the benefits of asking open-ended questions.
Examples of Close-Ended Questions
Below are examples of closed-ended questions to give you perspective on the different approaches. Keep in mind that you might need to practice this approach. However, there are many opportunities to turn a close-ended question into an open-ended question. Furthermore, this step in the process might be a great segue as you train your self to approach communication in an open-ended way.
For example, you might ask:
- Do you enjoy sports? Why?
- What is your favorite food & why?
- Why did you decide to draw a dragon?
- What is your favorite subject in school? Tell me more.
- If you could choose any activity to do in your free time, which activity would you choose & why?
For example, close-ended questions might look like this:
- How was your day?
- Did you enjoy dinner?
- Do you like being a big brother?
- Which sport is your favorite?
- Do you have any pets?
- Which flavor of ice cream do you like best?
- Did you have fun playing at Joe's house?
- Are you sad?
- What makes you mad?
- Do you like skiing?
The Benefits of Asking Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions are great for developing executive functioning skills. Above all else, keep in mind that children are natural problem solvers. However, there is a short window to nurture and encourage that innate curiosity. Questions require room for pontification and teach children to think about the many angles of topics. Children who develop with this approach to thinking will be able to navigate the world more successfully.
There are benefits in communication, too, as children are able to extensively explain their perspectives and detail their thinking. Encouraging questions where there is no right or wrong answer helps a child learn to think and not to mention to develop confidence and conviction in their options.
A few benefits of inquiry-based learning include:
- A child is able to go deep on a specific topic
- More meaningful answers manifest
- The child owns his learning
- More engaged child
- The child naturally becomes more curious
- Motivation to want to learn more increases
- Develops research skills
- Encourages a growth mindset and personal responsibility
- Nurture critical thinking skills
- Teaches how to ask the right questions
Hopefully, these questions will help you guide our little problem solvers!
30+ Open-Ended Questions to Use with Kids
One major point of asking children open-ended questions is to gather information.
- What would happen if…
- I wonder what…
- What do you think might happen when…
- How did that happen?
- What do you need to do to begin the project?
- How does it work?
- What do you think is happening?
- What might you change?
- Can you think of…
- What is your plan?
- I wonder how…
- What is the best part of being the oldest in your family?
- Will you tell me about a time when someone was kind to you today.
- What do you think might happen next?
- What made you think of that?
- How could you…
- What do you see?
- Tell me why…
- What should we put here?
- Tell me what…
- Can you think of other ways to…
- Do you have any ideas…
- How could we figure that out?
- Which design is your favorite & why?
- What might you keep the same?
- Now tell me about a time when…
- How do you come up with that solution?
- Tell me how…
- Help me fix this…
- Do you have any ideas for solutions?
- Are there any other ways we could…
- What do you think?
Have fun with these questions and get kids really thinking! Kids are natural problem solvers and scientists!
I hope you found this list useful! Let me know your favorite open-ended questions!
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