Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are unsure of what to talk about with someone you don’t know that well? What will you do? More often than not, we find ourselves starting to ask questions. Asking questions is a good way to start a conversation, if you ask the right questions. We often do the same with children in hopes of getting them to talk more. Among the most common ones are “what is this?”or “what is that”etc. However, frequent questions to our children may turn into interrogation instead of conversations. So how do we ask the right questions to help children develop their language?
a. Ask sincere questions based on their interests.
- We all like to talk about things that interests us or things that we like. Children are the same. Asking about your child’s interests or experiences are a great way to encourage interactions and conversations.
b. Ask open ended questions.
- “What is this?” or “Do you want this?” can often be answered with one-word answers such as “apple” or “yes/no”. These are known as close- ended questions, they do not promote or encourage conversations and more explanation. Instead, we should ask open ended questions such as “How does she feel?”, “why are you sad?”, “what should we do?”. These questions require longer answers and often can be followed by discussion and longer conversations about a topic.
c. Testing questions? No-no!
We often find ourselves asking many testing questions when interacting with our children to know as much possible about what they know and don’t know. However, testing questions do not promote language development.
* Tip: One of the best times to ask questions is STORYTIME!
Book sharing or story time is one of the best activities to facilitate language development in children, because it can be very fun and engaging. A lot of vocabularies and language concepts can be learnt through story time, and that includes questions as well.
1st tip: Tell the story and comment
- One of the best things about book sharing is you can tell the story in so many ways! You don’t have to follow the script. Flip through the story first, then tell the story to your child in your own way with dramatic actions and expressions to make it fun! Comment about the things you see and point to them to direct your child’s attention to it.
2nd tip: Pause and wait
After talking about an element on the page, pause and wait for 3 seconds to observe and wait for your child to respond. He/she may imitate what you said, they may also talk about something that interests them on the page (even naming pictures on the page should be counted!). It’s no fun if it’s just you talk and she listens right?
3rd tip: Ask questions that encourage use of higher language skills and thinking skills.
As the title suggests, ask questions that require thinking and longer answers. For example: “Oh no! She fell down. What should she do?” / “Oh no! Marnie lost her doll. How does she feel?” These questions will encourage longer answers and perspective taking. But make sure your child understands the questions or has the words to answer the questions. Do keep in mind what your child’s language level is, if all your questions are too hard for your child, they won’t be able to answer it. On the other hand, if they are all too easy for them, it won’t spark their language or thinking skills.
How do we help our child to start to understand questions?
Start by asking the question and providing the answer. Often, when we ask questions, the child may copy what we said by just repeating the question. However, when you answer the questions right after, he/ she will copy what they last heard. Hence, we can model the answer and wait for the child to imitate. For example:
Child: [pulled his mum’s hands] Mum: “What do you want?”
Child: [pointing at the bread]
Mum: [point at the bread] bread.
Wait for your child to imitate: bread
Mum: Oh you want bread.
After a few rounds of this flow over the next few times she needs something, pause for a while when you ask the question and wait for your child’s response. He/she may just give you the right answer!
That's all for this week, see you in the next blog!