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How to Talk to Kids

Today’s the day I introduce the last of MPMK’s new contributors. Today, Kim (a speech-language pathologist by day) is going to share with us the best ways to ask our kids questions. Didn’t know there was a right way? Well there definitely is – it’s the difference between making your littles feel like they’re on the spot and making them feel like they’re really being heard.  This is important stuff when they’re small and becomes absolutely critical as they get older (and you’re dying to know what’s going on in their heads).  So take notes now, while there’s still time!


As adults we ask children a ton of questions. Although questions can be a great way to find out about our kids, it’s crucial that
we don’t just ask about what our kids know, but instead get to know our kids

Of course all of us want our kids to know a lot, but getting to know our kids through the right questions allows us to follow their lead, tap into their intrinsic motivation, and help them pursue their passions.

Don’t ask too many.

Too many questions can make our kids feel like the pressure is on.  Especially when our children are just beginning to talk.  We tend to play with their language like a newfound toy, asking them to name things, think of animal sounds, and rattle off shapes and colors.  

But we often can find out more about our kids, and not just what they know, by simply listening and watching them. If we can be comfortable with quiet and fewer (and smarter) questions, we actually give children space to tell us or show us what they want to share. 

Build connections.

The simplest questions, like “how was that?” or “how’d that feel?” can be the most powerful questions you ask your child, because they build connection. From these questions you learn about your child and what motivates him. With these answers you can make him feel safe, help him find his interests and use those things to take learning to new heights. 

Encourage thinking.

Ask open-ended questions. They are a powerful tool for getting children to talk and share what’s on their minds and in their hearts. A question as simple as “I wonder what you liked about that story?” is a beautiful way to open the door for a conversation in a no-pressure kind of way. And, keep in mind as children get older and begin to ask YOU a lot of questions, you can encourage thinking by answering a question with a question. 

We often think it’s important to teach our kids by giving them the right answer, but knowing the right answer isn’t as important as knowing how to find answers on their own. So instead of jumping in with an answer to “why is he doing that?” or “what is that for?” instead, you can respond with, “what do you think?”. By doing this you help your child build creativity and problem-solving skills, and also teach children that even as kids they can find answers to big questions.




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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

MaryAnne K June 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

These tips are fantastic! Thank you for sharing your expertise, Kim!


Krissy Sherman Bonning June 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I love the reminder to help them to problem solve and find answers on their own. It’s easy to slip into giving them answers all the time as a mama. Thanks for the reminder, Kim!


Stacy of KSW June 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm

yay! So happy to see Kim joining your team, not only is she an incredible wealth of information but also a dear friend and favorite blogger of mine. Love the calmness she brings in many of my otherwise crazy days. Great choice Steph


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com June 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Thanks Stacy, I couldn’t agree more – so excited to have Kim here to share her knowledge on a regular basis!


Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum June 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Brilliant to see Kim join your team – 2 of my favourite blogs join together :D.

I love questions (must be the teacher in me) and find it very difficult when my children start to talk to cut down on them. So much so that my 14 month old says “What’s that?” Who’s that” all the time to me.


Georgine June 6, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Ha! When my five yEar old asks “what is that?” and I answer “what do YOU think?” she turns it back to me by asking me what I think. Sometimes kids are too smart or too smart alecky. Love the reminder not to quiz. I do that and we’d to remember to listen more.


heather at wordplayhouse® June 6, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Kim shares wonderful tips to get parents and teachers thinking before asking questions to young ones.


Bethany June 6, 2012 at 5:45 pm

What a great post, Kim. I never thought about it before, but I think I tend to ask way too many of the wrong questions! : )


Sarah June 6, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I have found the worst question to ask about art projects is “what is it”? My daughter would roll her eyes and says “mommy” in a condescending tone. When I realized she wasn’t mad at me, but hurt that her picture did not convey what she thought was obvious I switched to a request: “tell me about your beautiful picture”. She was more than happy to provide the backstory and I was able to figure out what she had drawn without hurting her feelings.


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com June 6, 2012 at 9:44 pm

We do the same thing Sarah. We try to go with “tell me about it”, “How did you make it?” or sometimes even “How did it make you feel to make this?” Instead of “What is it?” or the generic “It’s Beautiful”.


Jessica June 7, 2012 at 2:52 am

Same, here! I’ll ask, “How did you choose so much red?” or make a statement like, “You made a lot of different shapes in this picture! I see a triangle over here (etc.)” It’s the positive tone that helps get past the “what is it” but still sound approving and interested.


HollyAZOH June 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Helping kids make connections throughout the day also helps them remember more! I remember from my teaching days the text to text, text to self, and text to world connections…helps the kids to relate everything they are hearing and it’s it in their long term memory. Love it!


Kim @ Little Stories June 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Yes, Holly! The more a concept is interwoven the more it lasts. Connections, connections, connections!


http://livingatthewhiteheadszoo.blogspot.com/ June 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Thanks for sharing your tips Kim.


The Iowa Farmer's Wife June 12, 2012 at 3:34 am

this is great Kim!!! thanks for sharing!


LisaB June 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I love asking ‘why?’, particularly ‘why do you think?’ questions, to try and get children to think about what is going on, but keep in mind that ‘why’ is actually a difficult concept, it takes a little while before children understand what you mean by ‘why’. Also asking ‘why’ of their behaviour (particularly their naughty behaviour) is often a waste of time with littlies as they genuinely dont know, or cant explain why they did something. Its also a fabulous fall-back answer when you get to the sometimes very annoying ‘why’ stage where they are constantly asking ‘why?’answer with ‘why do you think?’


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