How can I use questions to help my child learn?

Asking and answering questions is an important part of communication. We can learn a lot by asking questions – like how someone is feeling or what they’re thinking.  

Asking your child questions helps them to feel heard and to express themselves.  It can also help you understand more about how they see the world. 

Pace your questions  

Make sure to give your child plenty of time to answer after asking them a question. Remember that asking several at the same time, or one after another, can be overwhelming.

Use open questions

Try to use openended questions as much as you can – these are questions that they can’t answer with a single word or yes or no. For example, when you’re sharing a book with your child try asking “I wonder what will happen next?” instead of “Do you think he’s going to hide?”  

Be mindful of age

Try to ask questions at the level your child can understand. Make hard questions easier if you think theyre struggling. Remember to give them enough time to think about the answer, too. 

Every child develops at a different pace, but a rough idea of different the stages can help you use questions your child will understand:  

  • At two to three years old: children understand questions about what’s happening right now. For example, “What is that?” or “What can you see?”  
  • At three to four years old: children understand questions that need more thinking about. For example, “What is happening in this picture?”  
  • At four to five years old: they learn to predict – “What will happen next?” or “How do you think he feels?”  
  • Children over five can solve problems, like “What should we do now?” or “How did that happen?”  
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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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