Help Your Child Understand and Learn to Ask Questions
Being able to understand question forms and being able to ask questions is an essential part of language development. It's the way we give and get information about our world. Questions lay the foundation for children to participate in conversations, demonstrate their knowledge and gather information.
Children with language delays generally have difficulty asking questions as well as answering questions and giving information. Below you will find some tips on how you can help your child learn to both understand and answer questions and also how to ask questions to gain information.
First, however it is important for you as a parent or caregiver to understand basic age guidelines for both asking and answering questions so that you guide your expectations accordingly. Please understand that if your child has a language delay these age guidelines will be lower depending on the severity of the language impairment.
Age Guidelines for Understanding/Answering Questions:
1-2 years understands "What's this?" and simple "Yes/No"
2-3 years understands "What doing?" ("What are you doing?")
understands simple "Who?" ("Who's that?")
understands simple "Where?" ("Where is daddy?")
understands simple "What" (function)? ("What do you do with a toothbrush?")
3-4 years understands simple "How?" ("How did you do that?")
understands simple "Why?" ("Why is he crying?")
understands simple "What…if?", "How many/much?" and "which?"
4-5 years understands "When?"
5-6 years understands most questions, but will still have trouble with complex and abstract questions.
A child's ability to understand and answer questions appropriately develops gradually. By including your child in conversation as much as possible you are providing a good model for your child of rich language including question forms. Is it not necessary for an adult however, to dominate the conversation with questions - both questions and comments are important. Modeling the answer is important as well, especially if you're not sure your child is understanding the question.
Here are some tips for helping your child answer questions:
- Make sure you have your child's attention before asking a question
- Include your child in as many conversations as possible
- Use as many comments as questions during your conversation
- Allow time for your child to think and respond to your question
- Make your child feel successful by asking the types of questions you know he can answer
- Model the answer if you think your child doesn't understand
- Ask simple questions while reading to your child ("What is that?", "Who is crying?", "What is she doing?", "Why did he do that?"…)
- Relate questions from a story back to your child's day ("She went to the store." "Where did you go today?")
- Ask questions by recapping events from your child's day
- Use visual cues if necessary to help your child understand
Age Guidelines for Asking Questions:
2 years yes/no "Johnny go?"
2 years What "What's that?"
3 years Where "Where's daddy?"
3 years Who "Who's that?"
4-5 yrs Why "Why is she crying?"
4-5 yrs How "How does that go in there?"
5-6 yrs When "When is daddy coming home?"
Asking questions is a way for us to gain information. Some children have difficulty asking questions. This could be because 1) they don't have the thinking skills to successfully request information, 2) they don't know how to put words together to form questions, or 3) they don't know how to ask questions to get the right information from their listener.
Here are some tips for helping your child ask questions:
- Give your child your full attention when he is trying to ask a question
- Be patient if your child is struggling putting thoughts into word
- If your child's word order is not correct for asking a question, model the correct word order
- As you're doing activities with your child, talk about what you're doing as you do it and "think" out loud asking and answering your own questions ("Where does this piece go?" - "Oh, it goes right here.")
- Engaging with your child in interesting activities will stimulate your child wanting to learn more
- Play games with your child where you ask him a question and then he has to ask you a similar question
Your child’s understanding and formulation of questions lays a foundation for developing skills in all areas of communication and processing information in his environment. Parents and caregivers have endless opportunities to give children practice in questioning and answering techniques. The mastery of answering and asking questions is invaluable to the early learner.