How to Encourage Toddlers to Ask Questions

By Katrina Oliver

A child’s natural sense of curiosity is their best learning tool. It is through their inquisitive nature that they are able to constantly be exploring new things about their surroundings and learning every day.

To best foster that inquisitive nature, try encouraging them to ask new questions with these easy tips.

Model question asking

To help your child ask more questions, show them how!

As you spend time with your child, think about various things about your surroundings that you can express curiosity about.

If you are at the grocery store, you can ask them thought provoking questions about the food you see on the shelves.

It can be as thoughtful as “who do you think picked these bananas? Where do you think our food comes from?” or as silly as “do you think these blocks of cheese grow on trees?”

When our children see us modeling a certain attitude about our surroundings, they naturally absorb that attitude and start to see the world that way.

By modeling a sense of curiosity about the world around you, you can impart upon your child a more thoughtful way of seeing the world and encourage them to ask more questions.

Reinforce it when they ask

Sometimes the adult in a child’s life spends so much time trying to get them to quiet down that they don’t learn to associate speaking up as a positive behavior.

When your child asks a question, praise them for thinking of a good question and being curious about the world.

Respond with phrases like “good question!” and “what a great thing to notice!”

For some parents, getting questions constantly from your child can be draining.

Getting repeated “why?” questions over and over again can wear on anyone’s patience.

However, do your best to keep your frustration to yourself.

After all, having an overly inquisitive kiddo is a great problem to have!

Answer the questions to the best of your ability, and if you absolutely need to take a break from the conversation, do so without showing frustration or annoyance at your child’s constant curiosity.

This kind of reassurance can confirm for a child that the adults in their life respect and appreciate their curiosity and are happy to engage with them about the things that leave them wondering.

Introduce new topics

The best way to pique a child’s curiosity is to give them something new to think about or play with! Kids are at their most curious when they’re exposed to something they’ve not seen before. The novelty starts to kick their developing mind into high gear, and their natural inquisition kicks into overdrive.

Try offering your child a new experience, going to a new place, introducing a new toy, or sitting down for a new activity with them. Giving them a chance to try something new will make them start to question everything about their exciting new adventure!

Don’t avoid the embarrassing questions

Kids naturally will ask some questions that are embarrassing to answer.

After all, children are still learning about social norms and society, so there may be plenty of taboo topics that they don’t know to approach sensitively yet.

However, just because they ask a question that’s a little awkward doesn’t mean you should respond negatively to it having been asked.

If children get strong negative reactions for asking these questions, it may dissuade them from asking more questions in the future for fear they may be unknowingly asking something inappropriate.

Instead, calmly answer the question they asked first.

Then explain to them that the topic is not always appropriate to discuss, and have a conversation about where and when it is and isn’t appropriate to broach the subject.

Talk about how it might be appropriate to talk to mom or dad about the potty, but not necessarily with the cashier at the grocery store!

Keep it open-ended

When discussing new subjects with your child, try orienting your discussion towards open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions encourage your child to answer with a complex thought, or can lead to further discussion.

Asking a child to think about why something is the way it is or how it got to be there are great ways to spawn a longer conversation.

Closed questions don’t inspire the same level of creativity in their response.

Closed questions are ones that only demand a simple answer, such as a yes or no question or a multiple choice style response.

These questions, while they aren’t bad all of the time, simply don’t offer the same opportunity for continued thought and discussion.

When you can foster a sense of genuine curiosity with your child, you give them the opportunity to develop a more wondrous and thoughtful attitude about the world, helping their developing mind and raising a more inquisitive person.

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