There are many benefits to asking children open-ended questions. Unlike “yes” or “no” questions, open-ended questions encourage children to consider many possibilities and therefore arrive at answers beyond the obvious. It spikes children’s creativity and enhances their reasoning as they make mental connections between the question and their own experiences. Moreover, as children answer open-ended questions, they learn how to express themselves and their thought processes. In answering such questions, they further develop their communication and language skills.
Our reaction to the child’s answer to these open-ended questions is equally important. This starts with listening to them and allowing them to complete their answers. It might also lead to asking a follow-up question to build on a specific thought or piece of information in their answer. The resulting conversation can be very insightful as children try to associate different memories and make sense of how they relate to the topic of discussion.
In late 2016, the UAE announced that 2017 would be the Year of Giving. Inspired by that, I started thinking about different ideas to illustrate the concept of ‘giving’ to children. In particular, I wanted to highlight the sometimes invisible day-to-day heroes who make our daily lives better, often without us even noticing them. These heroes do not usually appear in our photo albums or Instagram feeds, but they are the ones who make each picture in our life more beautiful. These invisible heroes include first responders like teachers, security personnel, nurses, and many other people who take care of orphans, and children with special needs. From there, the idea for my book “Perfect Pictures” was born. One of my favorite aspects about this book is that every other page ends with an open-ended question “What is missing from this perfect picture?”.
In that book, (Perfect Pictures) we follow a day in the life of Sultan as he shows us different ‘beautiful’ scenes of his life. At the end of each of those scenes, the following question appears “What is missing from this perfect picture?”. Then on the following page, one of these often forgotten caregivers appears and it becomes clear how that person contributed directly or indirectly to making the previous image more beautiful. As the story unfolds, we see as many surprises and unexpected connections to illustrate just how many invisible heroes there are in our daily lives and how interconnected we all are.
What are some of the open-ended questions which you use to start a conversation with a child in the hopes of improving their speech and vocabulary or deepening their understanding of a particular topic?