Speech and Communication

Asking and answering questions

Asking and answering questions is an important part of communication. Here’s how to get the balance just right.

We can learn a lot by asking questions – how someone is feeling or what they’re thinking, for instance. When chatting with children, however, asking the right kinds of questions helps them feel heard and learn to express themselves.

Pace your questions

That doesn’t mean not asking questions at all! Just remember that asking several at the same time, or one after another, can be overwhelming – and that can close down conversation altogether.

Use open questions

Try to use open ended questions as much as you can – these are questions that can’t be answered by a single word or yes/no. For example, when you’re sharing a book with your child try asking “I wonder what will happen next?” rather than “Do you think he’s going to hide?”

Keep it simple

Make sure the questions you use are at the level your child can understand. Make difficult questions easier if you think they are struggling. Remember to give them enough time to think about the answer, too!

Be mindful of age

  • 2 – 3 years old: children understand questions about what’s happening right now. For example, “What is that?” or “What can you see?”
  • 3 – 4 years old: children understand questions that need more thinking about. For example, “What is happening in this picture?”
  • 4 – 5 years old: they can do some predicting – “What will happen next?” or “How do you think he feels?”
  • Children over 5 can solve problems, such as “What should we do now?” or “How did that happen?”

Asking questions is easy and comes naturally to most of us. Thinking about how and when you use questions will help you get the most from your child’s communication skills.

Tips by I CAN, the children’s communication charity.


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