Asking open-ended questions

What have you learnedOpen ended questions help your child/ren…

  • Notice details
  • Think more about what they are doing / saying / thinking
  • Use their developing language rather than just giving one word answers
  • Experiment with language
  • Extend their critical thinking (learning characteristic)
  • Feel challenged to solve their own problems.

Open-ended questions are a great way to involve children in their own learning because they support children to do things and find things out for themselves.

While closed questions can be useful to find out what a child knows eg ‘what colour?’ or ‘what shape?’, open-ended questions encourage them to give a lot more information and think more carefully about what they are doing or what they can see (links to UW and C & L). We are also giving the child’s voice more importance when we ask them to tell us what they are thinking and how they are feeling as well as raising their self-esteem and confidence (links to PSED).

Some children need practice to manage open-ended questions. During an inspection, our Ofsted inspector will want to see them answering open questions so now is the time to start asking more of them! Ask the question and then be prepared to wait for the child to put their answer together. We need to give them plenty of time to think – don’t rush in with an answer.

Here’s an example of how we use open-ended questions during a reading session…

  • Look at the picture on the cover – ask the child/ren what they think the story will be about…
  • Read all the way through the book the first time in one go, pointing to the pictures and telling the story. This promotes children’s listening skills and helps them to grasp what is happening without the distraction of talking or pointing things out.
  • Now we go back to the start and open the first page – ask the child/ren some open-ended questions about the story and the characters eg
    • What is the character doing in the picture?
    • Why do you think that happened?
    • What would you have done in the same situation?
    • How can they make that better / different?

Open-ended questions start with questioning words like… Who..? What..? Where..? How..? Why..? Can you..? Here are some ideas for open-ended questions you can use with young children…

Open-ended questions – FREE question prompt download.

Have fun asking open-ended questions! Please let us know how it goes 🙂



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