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Top 5 Ways to Use Open Ended Questions with Children

Updated on June 30, 2011

Using open ended questions for children is a great way to get them talking at the dinner table. Instead of getting the standard yes or no answer from your kids, you can get a lot more information with open ended questions. Examples can be found online or with prepackaged sets of questions such as Table Topics, found at specialty boutique stores or online. Having a good supply of open ended questions to ask children can go a long way toward opening up long term, meaningful communication between adults and children. 

Click here for a list of open ended questions.

#1 – Get to Know Your Kids

Open ended questions go a long way toward creating long lasting interactive communication between parents and their children. While there are time you need to simply get an answer from your child, far more often you can use common open ended questions to really understand the way your child thinks—not to mention deeper insight into his or her dominant personality traits.

Here are a few get to know you questions for kids to get you started:

  • Do you ever have a dream that comes back over and over? If so, what is it like?
  • What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
  • If you could trade lives with somebody you know, who would it be?

#2 – Encourage Preschoolers to Open Up and Use Their Imaginations

It’s never too early to engage your child in meaningful conversation through open ended questions. Early childhood is the perfect time to start this method of communication. Not only will you get to know your child better, you may get some valuable quotes for the family scrapbook.

Some open ended questions to get very young children talking:

  • What is the grossest thing you can think of?
  • How do you describe me to your friends?
  • What do you think is beyond the stars?

#3 – Start Dinner Conversation

In our family we use Table Topics at the dinner table to get the kids talking about their day. Using a structured open-ended question is also helpful because to the kids, it’s not coming from Mom and Dad, it’s coming from the box.

We started this practice after I read and used the book Once a Month cooking, which has a list of dinner table questions in the back. The kids have gotten so used to this meal time ritual that they really miss it when we skip a night.

#4 – Get Children to Tell You About Their Day at School

Open-ended invite kids to imagine, elaborate, and tell stories. You'll get more information and get to know your child better when you ask open-ended questions. They let children think and solve problems. Here are some examples:

  • What do you think of standardized testing?
  • If you were the teacher, how would you explain algebra/gravity/nouns?
  • If you were the principal of your school, what would you do first?

#5 – Encourage Teenagers to Talk After a Date

There’s no better time than after a date to get your teenager to interact with you. While there are time you need to simply get an answer from your child, far more often you can use common open ended questions to really understand the way your child thinks about sex and dating. If you can get your kids talking while doing something where they don’t have to look you in the eye—eating or watching TV—even better. They will often give you more information than they intend!

Here are a few get to know you questions for kids to get you started:

  • What was the best thing about your date tonight?
  • Describe your perfect date?
  • If you could go out with anyone at your school, who would it be and why?

For more samples of open ended questions see the article, Top 50 Open Ended Questions For Sparking Conversation With Kids.

Image Credit: roland.lakis, Flickr


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  • Robin profile image

    Robin Edmondson 7 years ago from San Francisco

    Great Hub! We have a thumbs up, thumbs down session at the dinner table at night. We all get to give our highlights of the day and also things that didn't go so well. It's funny to hear our two year old chime in. We get so caught up in the logistics, it's nice for us to have this time for the kids to talk about their day.

  • profile image

    Eric Pinola 7 years ago

    This is an awesome read!

    Thank you; I have been in sales all my life and something like this is just part of my nature. BUT if not for my sales background I would never have thought about it.

    great topic!

    Kids are like flowers, they are willing to open up if the conditions are right.

    Eric P.

  • profile image

    whyzz 7 years ago

    At, the source for kid-friendly answers on how the world works, we partner with qualified experts to help parents talk about all subjects with kids ages 4-7 from "Why is the sky blue?" to "Where do babies come from?" - check us out!

  • De Greek profile image

    De Greek 7 years ago from UK

    This is a real education, thank you. Wish I knew all these before my kids grew up :-)

  • billyaustindillon profile image

    billyaustindillon 7 years ago

    Great conversation starters for all the family and to specifically empower the children and aid positive, confident communication.

  • Journey * profile image

    Nyesha Pagnou MPH 7 years ago from USA

    Hi Lela, These are great questions to get kids to start talking. Thanks for sharing.