What’s in a question?

Posted by / Wednesday 26 April 2017 / Parenting Tips Speech and Communication
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Asking and answering questions is an important part of communication. 

After all, it’s how we find out about how others are feeling, what they might know and what they are thinking, amongst other things. But, did you know that asking too many questions can actually stop your child talking as much as you’d like and may close down conversations? Also, it’s important to think about the type of questions you ask, as well as how many.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to stop asking questions completely – actually, asking the right kinds of questions can really help encourage children’s talking. The types of questions that children understand vary according to their age; try to remember:

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  • Two to three year olds understand questions about what’s happening right now, for example “What is that?” or “What can you see?”
  • Three to four year olds understand questions that need more thinking about, for example “What is happening in this picture?”
  • Four to five year olds can do some predicting, for example “What will happen next?” or “How do you think he feels?”
  • Children over five can problem solve for example “What should we do now?” or “How did that happen?”
"Asking too many questions can actually stop your child talking as much as you’d like and may close down conversations"

ICan, Speech and Language development experts

It’s a good idea to try not to ask too many questions, especially ones that sound like you’re constantly testing your child, or where you already know the answer. But, we’re not saying avoid all questions as they can be a useful way of helping your child show what they know and take an active role in conversations. Try these top tips to get the most out of questions:

  • Try and use open ended questions as much as you can – these are questions that can’t be answered by one word like 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?”
  • If you do ask a closed question, could you ask a follow – up question? “Is the boy feeling cross now...how do you know?”
  • Make sure the questions you use are at the level your child can understand. Make difficult questions easier if you think they are struggling.
  • Sometimes, it can be useful to give choices as an answer; this helps encourage even really quiet children to talk. For example, ask “should we go to the park to play or the woods for a walk?” rather than “where do you want to go?”
  • Make sure you leave enough thinking time after a question – count to five or even longer to make sure younger children are able to process what you’ve asked.
"Four to five year olds can do some predicting, for example “What will happen next?” or “How do you think he feels?""

ICan, Speech and Language development experts

Carefully thinking about how you use questions throughout your day will help you to get the most from your child’s communication skills. For more hints and tips, or if you’re worried about a child’s talking, why not ask I CAN’s speech and language therapists a question? You can drop them an e mail or call 0207 843 2544 to book a call.

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