Posted in Headlines, Learning and Development, Teaching Strategies

So what do I say to kids when they are playing?

One of the easiest and purest ways to extend children’s thinking is to talk to them, especially when they are playing and exploring. Ask them some open-ended questions, give them time to respond, and BOOM! you have added to their knowledge and skills. You have made them think and verbally interact with you. That is the essence of how children learn.

So the obvious question is…what do I say? What do these questions sound like? When I ask them, what am I actually doing for those little (BIG) brains?

Here is Parent PhD’s list of open-ended questions that I share with teachers, schools and parents. There is a lot here…try a few when you observe a child playing and exploring on her own. You’ll be amazed at where the experience (and conversation) will go.

When we ask children open-ended questions during their explorations and play, we are enhancing their ability to…


What do you see/hear/smell/taste/feel?

What did you notice?


What do you think will happen if you ____?

What do you think will happen next?


What made you decide to do ____?

Which of these do you like the most? The least? Why?


Why do you think it/that happened?

Remember/reconstruct prior experiences

What happened the last time we ____?

Relate cause and effect

What happens when/if you ____?

Utilize factual knowledge

Give what you learned about ____, what do you think will happen if I ____?

Put thoughts into words

Assess feelings

Why do you think ____?

How do you feel about___?

How would you feel if ____ happened to you?

Compare things

Think about similarities and differences

Discriminate among objects/events

How are these the same? Different?

What makes these two things go together?

Which one of these doesn’t belong?

Stretch thinking

Imagine something

Consider consequences

What would happen if ____?

What would happen if you ____?

What would happen if ____ instead of ____?


Now that we have ____, what happens if I ____?

Problem solve

Propose alternatives

What could you do to ____?

How can we ____?

In what other way can we ___?


How many? How long? How far?

Become aware of their thinking processes

How did you know ____?

Why did you decide ____?


How can you use what you learned?


Make decisions

Why do you think we have that rule?

What do you think we should do?


How can you share with others what you think?


These questions were developed from my own work with children and teachers as well with guidance from the following texts:

Dodge, D.T., Colker, L.J. & Heroman, C. (2002). The creative curriculum for preschool (4th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Teaching Strategies.

Kostelnick, M.J., Rupiper, M., Soderman, A.K., & Whiren, A.P. (2014). Developmentally appropriate curriculum in action. New York: Pearson.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.