Questions are a natural part of communication and are imperative for gaining information from others. However, asking a child who is still learning to communicate, too many questions or asking questions that they cannot answer can make them feel pressured. I know that it is hard for me to engage in a conversation or share information if I feel pressured!
If you find that you are often asking your child questions think about modifying your questions to encourage opportunities for communication with the following strategies:
1. Choice Questions: This gives children an opportunity to use a wide variety of language rather than yes/no. For example, "do you want water or milk?" vs. "do you want milk?". This is a great strategy for children to have many opportunities to practice using new vocabulary. This strategy can be most successful when holding each of the objects you are offering to support your child in associating the vocabulary with the object.
2. Turn your question into a comment: If you are trying to engage your child in conversation, you might have more success with commenting than questioning. For example, if I want to have a conversation with a child while playing with trains, I might say "whoa I love trains" instead of, "is that a train?" because they are much more likely to respond with something other than "yes" to my comment. This also provides your child with an opportunity to learn how to comment, which is an important skill for conversations!
3. Try the 3:1 Rule: For every 1 question you ask, make three comments. For example, if I am playing with Play-Dough with a child, I might say: "This Play-Dough is squishy", "Play-Dough is so fun!", "You have a lot of Play-Dough", "what will you make?". By commenting you are reducing the pressure to respond while modeling a variety of vocabulary that is immediately related to your child's interest.
4. Ask open ended questions: Open ended questions typically start with "I wonder...", "it looks like..." or "tell me about..." instead of closed-ended questions which might start with "Is...", "Do....", or "What...". Think about how many things your child could tell you if you said "I wonder what you did with the sand?" vs. "Did you build a sandcastle?". This gives your child the opportunity to use a variety of vocabulary and encourages a conversation to take place.
What strategy do you feel like is the most beneficial for you and your child? Let me know!
- McKenzie Rushcamp MA CCC-SLP