Quit the Questions: Why to Limit, How to Limit, & What Types to Ask

When interacting with children, it is natural for us to ask lots and lots of questions. Children are not yet communicating fully, and we want to check in on their wants and needs. However, question-asking, especially our tendency to bombard children with questions, may not be as beneficial to their speech & language development as we think!

Why limit the number of questions we ask?

  1. Children need communicative space to say their own thoughts.
  2. There is increased pressure to respond correctly, which makes it difficult to say the word.
  3. Many of our questions are actually directed at “testing” the child (e.g. “What color is this?” or “What does a cow say?”). Instead, how we communicate should be focused on building knowledge, not testing (e.g. “You picked the red crayon for your picture!” or “Wow, that tower is SO tall.”)

How do I limit my question-asking?

  1. Turn your question into a comment. (e.g. “What’s that?” could be changed to “Look, I see a white fluffy dog.”)
  2. Imitate what your child says. This provides reinforcement.
  3. Expand on what your child says. If they say one word, add some more words to make it complete!
  4. Create verbal routines. This is my favorite speech & language strategy with early learners! Common verbal routines include, “1-2-3,” “ready, set, go,” or anything you can build into your daily routine (e.g. “wash wash wash,” “I see you,” “clean up, clean up”). Repeat, repeat, repeat these routines. Then, pause and allow for the child to fill in the last word.

What types of questions should I ask?

  1. Balance the questions with other types of language. Make it a 3:1 ratio: for every 3 comments, ask 1 question.
  2. Give choices within the question. This decreases pressure by giving two possible answers. Also, offer visual items to go with your choices! (e.g. “Do you want an apple or banana?”)

Now, let your child lead the conversation, focus on your comments, & have fun!

By: Stacia Working M.S. CF-SLP 

April 2020