Why Ask Open-Ended Questions?
Imagine a little boy in a shop. He is wearing a Toy Story T-Shirt with Buzz on the front. The shopkeeper, smiling at him, say, ‘Wow, I love your T-shirt! Is Toy Story your favorite?’ Your son stares blankly, and before he gets a chance to nod or shake his head, the lady continues. ‘Is Buzz your favorite character? Mine is Woody!’ Sounds lovely. And, probably, the lady means well, but she has basically just had a conversation with herself.
When it comes to children, their thinking involves starting from scratch. Parents can seemingly demotivate their children by thinking or answering for them or asking closed questions involving very little response. It is the duty of the adult to initiate thought and curiosity, not only surrounding the children but about life in general.
With that in mind, let’s look at 19 great open-ended questions to ask your kids.
19 Open-Ended Questions To Ask Your Kids
Here is a list of open-ended questions for children…
What Made You Smile Today?
One of the most enticing questions, and sure to get a response. At any age, you can inspire a child to think about their day when asked, ‘What made you smile today?’ as opposed to the usual and rather short-lived, ‘Did you have a good day?’ You ask them to reflect on and recall when they felt happy, and this question is fundamental if you have just picked them up from daycare or school.
Even as a teenager, If they just come home from college or university, it is a great memory builder and positivity stacker.
If this question is asked regularly, it becomes easier for children to recall moments. Furthermore, children have a habit of not being fond of educational settings, so this is also an effective way to encourage school and happiness synonymously.
What Scares You The Most?
Being vulnerable is perfectly fine. Children are often scared of monsters or ghosts or the dark. These are things that you can explain to ease young minds. The best way to get over something scary is to gain as much information as you can about it. Whether that is an explanation for the dark shadow in your child’s room (usually just a toy or clothing item hanging on the back of the door) or chatting about flying in a plane for the first time, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Imagination is something that should never die, and fear is programmed into all of us and to a point, has a use.
Wouldn’t it be great to stamp out irrational fears at a young age, so your child can decipher what they can control and what they can’t?
How Are You?
So much better than a simple, ‘Are you OK?’ In this day and age, being in touch with your current mood is essential. It is alright not always to be OK, so this question is great for allowing children to tap into that and discover what is bothering them. Gaining an understanding of emotions and feelings is a great insight into their day.
This doesn’t even have to be an out of the blue question. It could be off the back of an upsetting moment or after an exam. Perhaps it might be a little while after they have done something new for the first time. Help them engage in their feelings.
I love your toy! Tell me about it.
Children LOVE telling people about their favorite toys. How often do we listen? ‘Yeah, my child loves Lego, don’t you?’ Do they? Let them tell me then! What do they love about it? This question is far better at gaining a glimpse into their imagination rather than just assuming why they like it or not even exploring why they love it at all.
One step beyond knowing why your children like what they like make things like Christmas and Birthdays so much easier. When shopping for presents, you will have more choices as you browse the aisles, knowing if certain things will be their kind of thing or not.
Is there something different you would like to eat?
This is a simple, everyday question that doesn’t involve much time at all but isn’t it interesting that we make meals most of the time without even asking. Or perhaps your child may ask, ‘What’s for lunch?’ You tell them, and they groan or shrug or give you a very indifferent look. Imagine if you asked them what they would like every once in a while.
They may at first seem surprised or even shrug, but when you tap into the question and give them some time to have a proper think, you could end up finding out that your child really likes something that you had no idea they liked. Maybe you could explore and learn about new foods or recipes together.
What would your dream house look like?
It doesn’t have to be a huge house filled with gold and an eternity pool out the back, but wouldn’t it be nice to find out what things your children would love to include in their ideal house? Anything from certain colored walls to a cool painting allows their creativity pool to flow!
If certain aspects of their dream house are affordable, you could even shift and shape your own house to include little bits you know they will love. Seeing their dreams come to life before your eyes, even if it is a bright red wall in their bedroom, would be priceless.
What makes your friends awesome?
What does your child need from somebody for them to be inclined to include them in their lives? It sounds intense. What you are doing when asking this question is to open up their minds to consider what a good friend means. It is also a pretty clever question because the answers will be similar to what makes a good parent.
A good listener, someone you can have fun with, someone who is there for you, being loyal, and respecting each other’s differences or likes. All of these are traits that your child will pick up over time, or if younger, will give you a much more simplified answer to, such as, ‘Someone who makes me smile.’
Can you tell me about it?
When children come to you with a problem, however big or small, by force of habit, we can brush it aside with comments such as, ‘That is terrible,’ or ‘Oh damn, poor you.’ On the more positive approaches, we can respond with, ‘Wow, that’s fantastic!’ Sometimes their words can’t come out quickly enough as everything is blurted out, and you try and process it as quickly as they talk.
Conversations that encourage talking in general, be it about great things or problems, are fantastic for allowing creative words to form and give children the time to explain themselves to you. It may take a while for them to get everything out that they want to, but that time you are silent to them means you are listening.
How could you solve this?
On the subject of problems, half the solving is in the awareness that there is a problem. The other is to figure out a way to solve it. Of course, you could tell them yourself or make friendly suggestions, but where is the fun in that? What would your child learn from following instructions from you?
Your child may not know how to solve things at a very young age, but that is where you explore together, letting them lead the way. Can they stack that brick on top of the other without it falling? How could they make it sturdy? Maybe you could try and make a mistake or two along the way to show that you are learning with them at that moment.
What Is Your Plan?
Steering away from simply ‘problems,’ your child will, at some point, wish to organize something. Whether it is an indoor teddy bears picnic, a sleepover, or a road trip with their friends in older years, there needs to be a plan. What needs to happen first? Do they need to gather a blanket for their teddies, or would they like to see which teddies will come first? Who do they want at their sleepover? Half of the fun is in step by step.
This is very different from problem-solving. There doesn’t always need to be a problem to work something out, and these moments in a child’s life are where they can step in and do what they think is right to create something or have a result.
Do You See…?
Danger! Your child is on the verge of slipping or potentially hurting themselves doing something. Time to pause and open up the thinking box by opening their minds. So often, we scream, ‘Be careful!’ or, ‘Put that down!’ An amazing alternative is to get your child to stop and see what is happening and what could go wrong.
‘Do you see what is on that rock?’ ‘Do you see any branches that can help you climb back down that tree?’ Don’t be fooled – these are yes or no answer questions, but they involve thought. They will pause and see for themselves what they need to do to keep safe with a prompt to think rather than be told off for daring to do something fearless, which you shouldn’t punish.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Answers here may surprise you and will most certainly vary from the jovial, ‘I would turn the sea into chocolate,’ to the more pensive, ‘I would want everyone to be happy.’ What is important to them about the world they live in, and what would they change if they had a chance?
What a way to give a child a platform to tell you what a good world means to them. It starts, as everything does when their answer comes at a young age. As they grow, this answer becomes more advanced, but with it comes possibility. The possibility that they have the power to change something they don’t like about the world.
What is your favorite…?
Color, food, drink, season, TV show, song… the list is endless, and the potential to explore a broad range of interest comes into play with questions that start with, ‘What is your favorite…?’ How far you go with to is entirely up to you and can even be a game where you both take turns. Children often reply with their answer followed by, ‘What about you, Mummy/Daddy?’ and then you proceed.
Answers often change, so as your children get older, their favorites may change. These questions never get old and certainly never get tiresome. Favorite things are definitely things to celebrate!
What is your favorite thing about yourself?
It can be a negative world that we live in, and easy to get swept up in the bad news or pressure to be or look the best. As we get older, we become more exposed to this, and it can drain us. Start them young – asking them what they like best about themselves will ignite the flame inside their minds about their own attributes.
When you know what you like about yourself, it is easier to spot those traits in other people. What a great way to seek out friends or loved ones in the future! These are how great morals grow with age as well. Liking things about yourself and respecting them will help mold children into stronger adults.
What is something you are really good at?
Blowing our own trumpets shouldn’t be mistaken for noticing and recognizing the things we are naturally good at. It is one thing to brag; it is another to be aware of your strengths honestly. Teaching children to know their strengths leads to the encouragement to continue to develop these things. It could be drawing or building bricks, or even as they get older, more intricate skills such as graphic design or coding.
Whatever they are good at, please encourage them to recognize their skills. Give them the time and space to think about what comes naturally to them and give them that opportunity to explore them, especially if it makes them happy.
What makes you feel excited?
A no-brainer! And what an exciting question! Watch their eyes light up as you ask them, well, what makes their eyes light up! Be prepared for copious amounts of sweets reeled off, as well as toys. Eventually, this could lead to deeper things like seeing grandparents or playing with their friends.
Keep a mental one of some of these answers for the days that seem blue or rainy because you can dig out the achievable ones and have lots of spontaneous fun. If the answer is: ‘Halloween’ or ‘Christmas,’ you can also keep one or two special surprises under your sleeve for those events.
What magic power do you wish you could have?
Show me a kid who doesn’t wish he or she had magical powers. Even as adults, we wish we had the talent to do ten things at once. Children think far more simply; do they wish they could fly? Or be invisible? It is a great question to ask over the dinner table or as you tuck them up for bed. You may be surprised to hear what your child wishes they could achieve with a sprinkle of magic!
You can even incorporate what their answer is into role-playing games. Can you play a game where you can pretend to fly or where you can be invisible? Your child will be able to live out their dream magical power with you!
What is this/your book about??
You have tucked your little one up in bed and are reading them a lovely story whilst they pick their nose and snuggle up to you. You are reading them a cozy book, and they giggle along, and you get to the end. You ask them what they think the aforementioned book was about, and you wait blissfully for their answer. Usually, they think about it and allow their comprehension to come forth as they chat freely about their own interpretation.
It also works for the older children who are free readers. Be it your quiet 9-year-old or elusive 16-year-old. Ask away, and you will get a great insight into your children’s choice of reads.
What makes you feel safe?
All children want to feel safe. That is a fact and a basic human right. But do we really know that makes them feel so safe? Maybe we think we do, and maybe we create that safety for them without even thinking about it. Well, if you aren’t thinking about it, your child certainly isn’t.
Asking them what makes them feel safe comes with a flourish of answers that you should cherish. If you know you are fulfilling their needs in this way, you can be sure that they not only feel safe but very loved as well. With that comes an unimaginable bond.
The advantages of open-ended questions are that you are not speaking for your child. They are gaining access to and strongly developing their emotions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs and understanding several matters.
These questions take more time than closed-ended questions, but time well invested is incredibly precious and priceless when it comes to the emotional well-being and awareness that your child will create for themselves.
Whilst it is easy to create a bond with a baby, the challenge is to keep that bond strong, and these open-ended question examples will help keep it strong!