In general, the more curious a child is, the more he is likely to learn. Open-ended questions are a great way to engage children in conversation. The more open-ended questions are introduced to children from a young age, the better they can understand the world around them and relate new information to past or current experiences. Furthermore, these types of questions allow the adults in a child’s life to gather information to better guide the child.
What are open-ended questions and closed-ended questions?
Closed-ended questions are those which can be answered by a simple yes/no or they have a limited set of possible answers (such as A, B, C, or All of the Above), while open-ended questions (or divergent questions) are those which require more thought and more than a simple one-word answer.
These are questions that cannot be responded to with one-word answers such as yes or no, and instead, require the respondent to answer in detail. It allows your child to speak more clearly and provides them with an opportunity to develop their language skills and stimulate their thinking.
Some key features of open-ended questions
These questions tend to start with a ‘What’, ‘How’, ‘Where’ or a ‘Why’.
Can’t be answered with yes/no, true/false, multiple-choice, or rated on a number or star-rating scale.
Don’t have a right or wrong answer.
Examples of open-ended questions:
“What do you think about this dress?”
“Why can’t I come along with you?”
“What is your plan?”
When you answer a question with only a “yes” or “no” or “true” or “false” response, then you are answering a closed-ended question. In simple, they are narrow in focus and usually answered with a single word or a pick from limited multiple-choice options.
Some key features of closed-ended questions
These questions target specifics.
Can be answered with a one-word answer.
Costs people little effort to answer.
Examples of closed-ended questions:
“Are you satisfied with this dress?” → (Yes/No/Mostly/Not quite).
“Are you feeling better today?” → (Yes/No/Mostly/Not quite).
“Do you like the book?” → (Yes/No).
By understanding the difference between the two, you can learn to ask better questions and get better, more actionable answers. By asking open-ended instead of closed-ended questions, you help children to boost critical and creative thinking, spark communication skills, and much more. It encourages children’s curiosity, creativity, reasoning, thinking skills and supports them to focus and make meaning of their experiences, and enables them to see various possibilities.
Why open-ended questions are so powerful?
You probably ask your child lots of questions every day but unfortunately, you can’t force them to talk. When adults pay special attention to asking questions or prompting children to express their ideas with open-ended questions, they give children the opportunity to practice and stretch their vocabulary and communication skills. Open-ended questions promote children’s independent thinking and guide them to their own truths instead of dictating how they should do something.
Benefits of asking open-ended questions
Are you aware that the way you ask your children questions has an impact on them?
You ask, “How was your day at school?” and your child responds with, “good,” “fine,” or “ok” and then the conversation is over. But sometimes you need an answer that goes deeper, that delves into the thoughts of your children. Open-ended questions can help with this! It encourages children to elaborate on details, express thoughts, and offer opinions. This allows parents to better access the children’s true feelings on an issue.
It’s true! The more complex the question, the richer children’s language, and thinking.
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