Open Ended Questions for Toddlers

Asking Open Ended Questions in Childcare

Open ended questions are questions that can have more than one right answer and require more than a yes/no answer. Open ended questions encourage the child to consider their response and help to stimulate both thinking and language skills. This interactive approach allows the child to gain greater meaning from the experience and opens their mind to various possibilities.

The main benefits of asking open ended questions for toddlers

Asking open ended questions demonstrates an interest in the child’s perspective and opinion. The benefits of consistently asking open ended questions include-:

  • Stimulating the child to think beyond the obvious response
  • Teaching the toddler to think through as many possibilities as possible before deciding on the best answer.
  • Fosters a spirit of understanding and cooperation.
  • Enables the child to express a range of feelings and emotions as well as their understanding of a particular subject.
  • Gives the child room to explain and describe. This facilitates expansion of speech and vocabulary skills.
  • The questions may cause the child to recall previous events which can help to stimulate memory skills and abilities.
  • Creates a situation where the adult must engage with and pay attention to the child. This helps to make the child feel that their opinion and thoughts are valued.

Tips for using open ended questions for children

Open ended questions are a great way to encourage discussion and input. Here are some ways to get the most out of these questions while keeping things natural:

  • A great way to get the child engaged is to use a combination of closed and open questions. By starting with a closed question – such as “Did you watch the Olympics on Television?” and then following up with open questions like “What did you watch? And “How did you feel afterwards?” you can open up a range of possible responses and contributions.
  • Use language that encourages input from everybody. Questions that use the words “Who can?” tend to limit input whereas “What are the ways we can?” invites input by suggesting that there is more than one way and that you want to hear all possible methods.
  • Remember that there are no right answers, and don’t expect specific answers. If a child answers a question with a surprising answer, take the time to explore why they gave the answer. Follow up their answer with “Why do you say/think that? Or why is that?
  • Be patient and give the child time to answer thoughtfully.
  • Asking open ended questions in childcare can take a little practice and it may pay to work up a list of open-ended questions for preschoolers that you can practice working into your routine.

The Type of Open-Ended Questions that you should ask young children

Open ended questions in childcare can take several different forms. Ultimately all will perform the vital function of challenging the child to think.  Questions that stimulate thought help the child to grow cognitively and creatively. Categories of open-ended questions include -:

  • Predictive questioning – questions that ask the child to think ahead – “What do you think will happen next?
  • Knowledge questioning – simple questions that ask about events or skills. “What do you remember about?” “What things did you use to make…?”
  • Comprehension questioning -often comparing similarities and differences. “How can you tell the difference? Or Which one is bigger/ heavier/ smaller?
  • Analytical questioning that asks the child to think through possibilities “What would you do next?
  • Emotional questioning – asking how certain events or situations make the child feel.

One of the great times to use open ended questions is story time – where you can use a book as a visual and cognitive stimulant. The process starts with the front cover where you can ask the children what they think the story is about and use the clues on the cover to stimulate further questions. As the story is read, there will be plenty of opportunities to ask further predictive, comprehension and emotional questions.

20 Open Ended Question Examples

A good starting point when building a list of open-ended questions for preschoolers is to remember the standard framing points of open questions -, what, why, and how… Of course, there are other options, but these opening words always help to frame an open question.  Twenty examples of open questions using these words follow:

  1. What do you think could happen next?
  2. What things will we need to make a chocolate cake?
  3. What other things can we use to build a tower?
  4. How did the story make you feel?
  5. How can we work out how many cups of water it will take to fill the bucket?
  6. How do you know that that is the way it will turn out?
  7. How could you use these scraps to make a picture of a person?
  8. What other things could you use instead of these?
  9. What do you remember about your last birthday?
  10. Why do you think the tower fell down?
  11. Why do you say that you are feeling happy?
  12. How did you make that?
  13. How are these two things the same?
  14. What other things does this remind you of?
  15. What other things could you try next time?
  16. What is another way to do this?
  17. How many ways are there to tie a shoelace?
  18. What is your favourite food?
  19. How do you plan to manage that?
  20. What is the best thing that happened over the weekend?

Other words that can be used to frame open ended questions include

  • Did – Did something like that ever happen to you?
  • Tell me – Tell me how that makes you feel
  • Is – Is there another way that you could try?
  • Show me – which is a variation of the tell me phrase – Show me how you tie your shoelace
  • Name – Name all the shapes in the puzzle.

And finally

Using open ended questions for children is a good way to instill a sense of belonging within the child. This sense helps to support and grow relationships. Framing questions in an open way shows the child that we want to hear their thoughts and that thinking for themselves is a positive way that can help them to learn and grow.