Why shouldn't I ask questions?

If you have looked through the activities in this blog you will notice a common theme in the tips which accompany them: I recommend that you don't ask your child too many questions. Whilst it's natural to ask questions when you are playing with your child (and if your child isn't talking much it's even more natural to fill the gaps with questions)  there is a difference between teaching and testing, and if you want to teach then questions are not so helpful.

Here's why comments are so much more powerful than questions when you're trying to support your child's language skills:

1) Your child learns words from you. If you say 'what's that?' he will learn the phrase 'what's that?' but not much else. If you use comments such as 'oh bus', 'you are mixing flour' 'the cat is here' then your child will hear (and therefore have opportunities to learn) so many more words.

2) People feel under pressure when they are asked lots of questions, and generally people are less able to learn when they are feeling stressed. Think about what it is like being in an interview and having to find the answers to 10 questions in a row. You don't want to make every play time like an interview for your child.

3) Your child needs to learn to have conversations more than she needs to learn to label objects/colours/shapes for you. In a natural conversation people take turns to talk, sometimes ask questions, sometimes listen and sometimes talk. Parents are often keen for their child to demonstrate they can count and label colours because they want their child to learn and succeed, but this shouldn't take over a normal conversation. Your child needs to hear you talk about what is happening, respond to what they are interested in and show listening skills so that they can develop the same ability to have a balanced conversation.

So can I ever ask questions?          
Yes of course! I always suggest following the rule of only asking questions which you genuinely don't know the answer to. You might ask your child what they want for lunch, or what they did at playgroup, or where they put the remote control for the television. If you don't know the answer then is a useful and natural question so you can go ahead and ask it.

What do I do instead of asking questions?
Instead of asking questions try using comments e.g. 'That man is climbing a ladder' 'oh, another red car', 'that train was noisy'. Your child will hear such a rich variety of words which will really boost their language.

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