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Using Open-Ended Questions With Your Child Makes "How Was Your Day?" Meaningful

Updated on June 17, 2013

What Did You Like Best About Today?

A child's excitement about play can be shared by asking creative open ended questions.
A child's excitement about play can be shared by asking creative open ended questions. | Source

Interesting Parent Resource

Open-Ended Questions And Critical Thinking

I asked ten-year-old Hailey, "What was the most exciting thing you did today?" She responded, "I got to jump rope outside with my friends. I learned a new trick too!" Her mother, who was standing beside her gasped and said, "You didn't mention that when I asked you how your day was!" The mom then turned to me and asked me why I got a response when she didn't. She went on to say that every day it was the same answer to her inquiry on her child's activities: fine, nothing, or OK. I sympathized with her and helped her to understand how asking the right question would get a better response.

Asking closed-ended questions that only require a yes or no response will receive limited responses. They make children feel as if they are being interrogated or being graded on their answer. And if you have experienced this type of response, then you know that asking further questions is fruitless. You will not get a better answer, in fact they may just clam up.

Do you like your new teacher?

Yes.

Did you make new friends?

No.

Is that your new book?

Yes.

Did you eat all your lunch? (No response)


Open-ended questions are an open invitation to share, to think critically and to solve problems. There are no right or wrong answers to an open-ended question and the answers are limitless and varied. When a child hears an open-ended question they think you really care about them and it conveys a feeling of importance in their response to you. They think through your question to express their ideas.

Sample Open-Ended Questions

Tell me about your day.
What was hard about your day?
Tell me what was really exciting about today.
What do you think is about to happen?
Do you think there is another way to _______?
What do you notice about _____?
How do you think we can make it work?
If you were the mom (or dad, or teacher, etc.), what kind of things would you do?
What would happen if we did this?
How can we fix this together?
What do you suppose ____?
I wonder _____?

What's it like to pet a pony?

Asking the right questions, will stimulate interesting responses and allow children to share their inner passion.
Asking the right questions, will stimulate interesting responses and allow children to share their inner passion. | Source

Open-Ended Question Quiz


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Sample Classroom Open-End Exercise

Encouraging Conversation Through Open-Ended Questions

Teachers have experience in using open ended questions to encourage conversation in the classroom. They know that asking children to clarify their thoughts leads to critical thinking and problem solving. In the same fashion, parents can phrase a question appropriately to produce a better response that may lead to a great conversation.

Mom: What do you think would make a great lunch tomorrow?

Child: Peanut Butter and Jelly!

Mom: How would you make it really interesting?

Child: I don't know. Wait, I would put banana and cinnamon on top. Then I would add some chocolate chips. Hey, mom do we have any of those?

This type of open-ended questioning helps a child to think through her ideas and to discover what works. It is an opportunity that allows for freedom of expression and parents can find out what children are truly thinking. Remember to really listen to your child's response so that you can comment and ask a follow-up question and keep the conversation going.

Here are some other suggestions to encourage conversation and to build critical thinking skills:

  • Start your questions with how, tell me, where, why, when, or what
  • Talk about their interests. Do they like to build, draw, sing or dance? For example, ask, "Tell me about your drawing."
  • Read a book together and then ask open-ended questions. For example, pause between pages to ask questions such as, "What do you think will happen next?" Also, talk about words they may not know and ask them what they think it means. This will help them to develop language skills, "Wow, that's a pretty neat word. Shimmer. What do you think it means?"
  • Play with your child. As you observe their actions, ask questions such as, "Why do you think that purple car goes faster than the red tractor?"

It may take some time to learn how to use open-ended questions. And, it may take time for your child to respond accordingly. Parents often make the mistake of answering questions or prompting children on what they believe is the correct answer. Allow your child to think through the question, wait briefly and then move on to something else. Be patient. Your child will begin to respond as you build respect for his thoughts and responses.

Incidentally, open-ended questions work well in building conversation skills with almost everyone. Try it on your spouse, co-worker, friends and people you meet. You may just discover interesting facts and details about their life.

If you have additional information that parents may find useful in asking open-ended questions, please leave a response in the comment section.


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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love it Dianna! So practical and yet it's amazing how many parents don't understand this. Excellent suggestions my friend. Now I'm going to call it a night! :)

    • PurvisBobbi44 profile image

      PurvisBobbi44 4 years ago from Florida

      Hi,

      A great teacher wrote this hub, and I know all your students communication levels were higher than the adverage students.

      Making a child think and respond is a wonderful adventure. My niece Katie and her made-up stories kept me laughing for hours. I would get her start on a story and she would finish it. She was only five years old.

      Thank you for a great hub to read.

      Bobbi Purvis

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Wow, teaches, this is really useful and does make one stop to think just what are we really asking our child or grandchildren. I must be asking in the correct manner, as I get an hear full! Ha. Excellent hub. God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      These are really helpful. My daughter is not a talker. I'm going to give some of these a shot to see if I can get more out of her when school starts. Thanks teaches!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Another wonderful and useful article here Dianna. As a teacher, you are right that I do understand the importance of open-ended parents. As a parent, I loved way you branched out and covered this topic with our own children or grandchildren too. Nice job here, I have pinned, shared, tweeted and voted up too :)

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      This is really true teaches12345! I totally agree with you about open ended questions. It will help the child to develop his/her reasoning power. Thanks for this wonderful hub. Voted up and more!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Hope you had a good night, Bill. We woke up to Isaac's winds. Hope it doesn't build as it heads towards the Gulf States. Anyway, Thanks for stopping in here. You know how important it is to ask those open-ended Q's with kids -- it helps them to think.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Purvis, I must thank you for such a kind comment. I would love to hear some of Katie's stories. I bet they are so cute. Thanks for coming to visit and you have a good day.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Faith, good job on asking the right questions with kids. I am sure that they respect your opinions as well. Be blessed in God's richness today.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Glimmer, let me know how it works out. Give it time though to really allow both of you to open up to each other. Blessings.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Janine, your visits are always provide so much value to the hubs. I so appreciate it. Thank you for your loyal support.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Ignugent, agree - the more we can help children in critical thinking, the more they will excel in leadership later. Thanks for your thoughts, they are valued!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      Wonderful suggestions to help children communicate more effectively. Open- ended questions are also helpful when dealing with adults. I'll have to try this approach with my hubby! ;) Well crafted and engaging Hub, teaches!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Linda, I have used open-ended questions in work settings as well. It does lead to some great conversations. I too use it on my hubby... Works most of the time. :-)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I like this strategy for encouraging thoughtfulness, creativity and conversation. It might steer them away from texting when the time comes and actually interacting with people through talking. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Texting is one area that challenges parents when it comes to conversation with kids. Open-ended questions may help some. Your thinking on this is added value here, Alocsin. Thanks!

    • teacherjoe52 profile image

      teacherjoe52 4 years ago

      Hi teaches.

      Great advice.

      I use this method to make learning a fun learning adventure. The children learn easier and quicker. As well this will carry them through their life.

      This is a great method to get teenage, univercity and adult classes to open up as well.

      God bless you.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      These types of questions are great in promoting active learning for everyone. TeacherJoe, you must run a very creative and fun classroom! May God's love surround you today.

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Open-ended questions always get my 6 yr old going. I sometimes have to tell him that's enough information for today, but it's a sure way to get him to open up and spue out all the details of what happened in school.

      Thanks for a very intriguing hub. Voted Up and Useful.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      ComfortB, you are very blessed to have such lively open conversations with your son. Proof that open-ended Q's work! Blessings to you.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 4 years ago

      Fantastic hub with great advice! Thank you ^_^ I'm still working on basic conversation with my son but this will be very important a few months from now! I'm voting a bunch and sharing ^_^

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Mama Kim, your little boy will love your opening up with these types of questions. Keep up the good work. Enjoy your evening.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love the fact that you always include practical examples in your advice hubs, teaches. You have given some excellent examples of open-ended questions. These types of questions are important for parents and teachers to keep in mind!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I like to think the examples help make concepts easier to follow. Thanks, for your feedback and positive support, Alicia. Be safe and well.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Excellent idea - open ended questions to encourage and develop conversational skills. Interesting and very useful.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Excellent report and advise. It worked well for me. A teacher, Mrs Murphy, gave me this clue many moons ago.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Vellur and Mhatter, thank you for coming by here. Have a great week and stay safe.

    • eddy4me profile image

      Eddy Jones 4 years ago from Wales.

      A brilliant hub teaches and thank you for sharing.

      Eddy.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 4 years ago

      You are sooooo smart!!!! Up and awesome.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Eddy and Breakfastpop, thank you for your visit and support of the hub. Enjoy your day' journey!

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 4 years ago from Normandy, TN

      This is fantastic advice! I often get frustrated with trying to pull out information from my 6 yr old about his day. I can now see that I am asking the wrong kind of questions. I also need to use these tips on my husband who is famous for his one word answers ;) Great job with this hub - voted up, useful, and interesting!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Alissa, I am glad this is of use to you in commuicating with your child. I am sure you both will benefit from it. Your hubby, that may take some work... mine is onto my tricks! Thanks for visiting here and for your support. Enjoy your day's journey.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Great advice. I am sure this method would do wonders to help encourage crital thinking. Great hub!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Tammy, it is a great start on critical thinking for young children. Thanks for the supportive visit here. Take care.

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 4 years ago

      This topic is a very important one in my opinion. The simple strategy of asking open-ended questions will change the way parent and child communicate for the better. Great article and voted up!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Sturgeonl, as parents practice this method of communication it will benefit all involved in raising a child. Thanks for your positive support here. Be well and safe.

    • TeachableMoments profile image

      TeachableMoments 4 years ago from California

      Thanks for a very useful hub. As an early educator and mother I always try to model open-ended questions. It really does make a difference when discussing various topics with children. Just by choosing a few different words you get a completely different response and the conversation becomes all the more meaningful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Teachable, we teachers are always finding those moments of opportunity to stimulate learning. I can tell you have a great knack with this method. Thanks for your support. Your professional opinion means much to me.

    • profile image

      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      That is another informative one. Grin!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Appreciate your visit, Integrity. Be well and strong.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 4 years ago from West Virginia

      Those of us that have children are lucky to know you Teaches. I mean that. Excellent idea and article. I would have never thought of this. I often ask simple minded questions to my son and get a short response. Due to reading this, it all makes sense now. Know this, you are a great teacher. I truly thank you for this and promise I will begin applying it immediately. Since you already write here, this would make a great series on Hubpages. Link all these hubs and excersises together, just a thought. Incredible Teaches and thanks. Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. Shared on twitter.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Lyric, you are not the first that has mentioned linking these as a book. I am considering it, really! Thanks for your loyal and positive support of my writing. I am happy to hear how much it is helping parents in raising great kids. It is followers like you that keep me writing here. Blessings and may your journey be a great one tomorrow.

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 4 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      Another great share from the pen of a great teacher, the only point is how many parent understand this, great share, voted up.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Thank you, girishpuri. I hope parents will see how much it helps them communicate with children as they practice it at home.

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      all my votes, this is one fantastic hub that you can definitely use!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Unknown, I thank you. Thanks for stopping by here. Enjoy your weekend.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Good tips on using open ended questions for not only the children in one's life, but also adults. It certainly opens up the possibility of communicating more effectively. Up, useful and interesting votes!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      You can get more out of a conversation when you use open-ended questions. You also have to be a big more creative when you use them with adults. Great thoughts added here, Peggy. Thanks!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      This is a wonderful hub, teaches! Very helpful and interesting!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Thanks, Terrye. I appreciate your visit and comment. Enjoy your weekend.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very interesting and useful hub!

      These are useful tips on using open ended questions to encourage communication with children.

      Thanks for sharing these useful tips! Voted up!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 3 years ago from USA

      I do try to ask open ended questions, but apparently am not doing it right, because "fine" and "normal" are generally the answers I am given. You've provided great examples. I am definitely going to have to use them more.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      This is wonderful advice, so practical and useful, yet so many people don't even think about it, most likely. I like how you made the questions open yet specific, such as asking what made you happy today. And you're right--this type of communication is effective with everyone, not just children. Great hub!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      ChitrangadaSharan, I am glad you found them useful. It was good to see you visit. Thanks for the support.

      Millionaire Tips, glad you found some extra ideas to put in use with your kids. They sometimes surprise us with their answers though! Hope your day is doing well.

      Victoria, thanks for your valued comment. I always appreciate hearing your feedback. Take care and be well.

    • retro-gamer profile image

      Howard 2 years ago from Michigan

      Very informative hub and in our busy lives it is important to have quality conversations with our children. I have 4 and just listening to what they deem important works wonders. Asking a question in a certain way can elicit different responses and it can apply to everybody as well, not just children as was stated. I enjoyed your page and found it very helpful.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 2 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      I love this elegant little article that encourages dynamic relationships with our children (and others) simply by learning how to ask open-ended questions. I remember one open-ended question particularly well-- my husband and I were foster parents at the time and met weekly with a group. One evening I was whining and feeling discouraged. The group facilitator (a social worker in our program) asked "What can I do to help?" It was a simple question that cut through all the pie-in-the-sky yak and demanded that I think before I continued to whine-- what help could he offer that would help to have my needs met? What did I need? How did I feel about being needy?

      Thank you for this. Voting up, useful, beautiful and sharing...

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      Retro, open-ended questions work well with any age. It is how you can get someone to respond and share with interest. Thanks for your add to the content.

      Techygran, kudos to the facilitator who knew how to best stimulate responses from individuals with needs. Glad you found the information here useful. Have a wonderful week.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Great tips Dianna; I think parents should have classes on this really. I know so many parents that just half listen to their kids and those kids notice it too!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      Yes, children are pretty savvy on the depth of response from adults. I too wish parents would listen with interest to children. I'll bet many parents wish they could turn back the clock on this issue, Jackie. Best wishes for a great week.

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