Kids are innately curious. They often ask a lot of questions, such as “What is this?”, “Why is it like that?” or “How did this happen?” As our kids grow, their ability to think more rationally and intellectually also develops through time. This curiosity helps them learn firsthand, and builds their concepts, skills, learning, and understanding more deeply outside the box. It’s as if they’re discovering a treasure of the unknown.
Samuel Johnson, a moralist, poet, and literary critic in the 18th century said, “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” With this, let us support our kids whenever they ask questions. Let’s not stump their curiosities, and demotivate them to think and be curious. Instead, let us try our best to provide them a brief yet informative answer to their question. Better yet, challenge our kids by reverting back their question. For example, when they ask, “Why do we have day and night?” you may return the question back by asking, “Why do you think we have day and night?”
In this manner, children would think more deeply, building their foundation of deep thinking as they grow older and more mature. Let us help our kids in their search for meaning and answers that would definitely be their building blocks to growth.
What are Open-Ended Questions?
Open-ended questions are the type of questions that enable kids to answer more in detail and in-depth rather than answering the structured “yes or no” responses. This encourages our kids to think deeply, and develop their speech and verbal skills. Moreover, it focuses on supporting your kids to think of various and endless possibilities and opportunities to answer a certain question. Thus, they may pick up answers based on their own personal experiences, thoughts, insights, opinions, or even think beyond these things.
With these being said, it hones your kids’ verbal and conversational skills, which boost their self-confidence and self-esteem to ask more questions and keep the conversation going. Also, it builds positive relationships because your kids would feel that their answers or opinions are valid, and that someone is listening to their thoughts.
Benefits of Asking Open-Ended Questions to Kids
Open-ended questions are not just questions. They help our kids to think and understand more beyond their capabilities. Here are some benefits of asking open-ended questions to your children:
- Allows and encourages children to think outside the box and dwell into the unknown.
- Gives children an opportunity to explain or describe something in their own understanding, which develops their thinking skills, speech, vocabulary, and language.
- Sharpens their memory skills, may it be short-term or long-term, when they are asked to recall past events and information.
- Engages meaningful conversations, and develops positive relationships among family and friends.
- These questions have no right or wrong answers, allowing our children to be more comfortable to express their thoughts.
What to do When Asking Open-Ended Questions
- Give the kids time to elicit answers—let’s say five to 15 seconds—so they could think through and understand the question.
- Let your kids be comfortable in sharing their answers by giving the floor to them. Give them the freedom to speak out their minds.
- Listen to your kids’ answer, and let them feel that you’re interested in knowing their answers.
Open-Ended vs Closed-Ended Questions
Contrary to open-ended questions, close-ended ones are those questions that could be answered by a “yes” or a “no.” Additionally, it requires little to no time for our kids to think of their answer because it requires prior knowledge and limited possibilities, which makes option A correct, while other options are not. Aside from that, these questions can sometimes be irritating or threatening, making our kids uncomfortable to voice out their sentiments.
Cons of Asking Closed-Ended Questions
Asking closed-ended questions may be inevitable at times, and varies on the situation, but let us keep in mind that there are disadvantages when we ask such questions all the time. Our kids may give us direct answers to our questions, but little do we know that such questions have an impact on them. Below are some disadvantages of asking closed-ended questions:
- These questions might limit the possibilities of answers our kids can think of.
- They might get shy in answering such questions when they don’t know the answer or their intellectual guess is not in the options given.
- They might get frustrated and unmotivated to answer these types of questions.
- It may not keep the conversation going after giving a correct answer to the question.
- It does not encourage our kids to freely give their own opinions and insights.
Transforming Closed-Ended Questions to Open-Ended Questions
As closed-ended questions limit conversations because it merely answers the question by a “yes” or “no,” let’s try to transform these questions to open-ended ones that would allow our kids to share more of their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and insights.
Listed below are some closed-ended questions that could be rephrased and transformed into open-ended questions.
|Closed-Ended Questions||Open-Ended Questions|
|Are you okay?||How are you?|
|Do you like chocolate ice cream?||What is your favorite ice cream flavor, and why?|
|Did you like the movie?||What is your takeaway or insight from the movie?|
|What is your toy’s name?||Your toy is beautiful! Tell me more about it.|
|Do you read this book?||What made you decide to read this book?|
Open-Ended Questions for Kids and Parents
Asking open-ended questions help in initiating a conversation among family and friends, and at the same time allow everyone to think deeply and voice out their opinions and sentiments regarding certain concerns. We’ve listed questions you may use to break the ice, and keep the conversation going.
When Asking About Their Feelings
- What scares you the most?
- What made you laugh or happy today?
- Care to tell me the things you’re grateful for?
- What has made you feel embarrassed lately?
- Can you tell me about your day today?
- What keeps you going every day?
- What makes you feel loved?
When Asking About Their Dreams or Future Plans
- What do you like daydreaming about?
- If you could do anything right now, what would you do?
- What is your ultimate dream vacation?
- If you won $1 million in the lottery, what will you do?
- What outdoor activities would you do if you’re outside for a whole day?
- If you’re given a chance to learn a new sport, what would it be?
- What are your projected achievements for this year?
- If you are to open a business, what would it be and why?
- What are your small wins for today?
- What would be your message to your future self, five years from now?
- If you’re given a chance to prepare a speech about your life, what would your message be?
- What would be your message to your past self?
- What is one thing you hope to change in the world when you grow up?
- How do you think the world would be like when you’re an adult?
- What would your dream house look like?
- Who do you want to be when you grow up?
When Asking About Their Relationships with Friends and Family
- What have your friends been up to?
- What can we do to make you feel more appreciated?
- How do you show your love and care to your loved ones?
- What makes your friends cool and awesome?
- What makes your family cool and awesome?
- If you had friends all over the world, how would you keep in touch?
- If you’re given a chance to choose a pet, what would it be and what would you name it?
- What is one thing you do now that still needs adult supervision, but would like to try to do all by yourself?
- If your friend asks you to keep a secret, and you’re not comfortable keeping it, what would you do?
- If you’re the head of the family, and are tasked to prepare house rules, what would it be?
- Do you know anyone at school who’s being treated badly? How do you think they are feeling right now? What do you think you can do to help them?
- Who is your role model, and why?
- For you, what is an ideal family?
- What is your favorite family tradition, and why?
- What changes would you make to our home?
When Asking About School
- What did you learn from school today?
- Which schoolwork challenges you the most, and why?
- What makes you excited at school?
- What can we help with, for you to do better or to make your school experience more fun and enjoyable?
- Who is your favorite teacher, and what are your takeaways from him/her?
- What is the most challenging subject for you? How do you think you can overcome it?
- What are you currently reading? What is it all about?
Open-ended questions not only encourage our kids to spontaneously share what’s on their minds, but also make them feel comfortable and safe with their family. It lets them know they’re welcomed, and that their feelings are valid. Thus, it strengthens family bonds and relationships, and at the same time keeps the conversation and interactions going.
If you are having a hard time with your kids opening up, give these 45 open-ended questions a try, and let’s see where it would take you. Who knows? These questions might break the ice, and serve as a bridge to talk about anything under the sun.