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A Guide to Open-Ended Questions for Preschoolers

It is amazing how much a child talks when you start using open-ended questions over closed-ended questions. Simply changing what you ask from “Did you have a good day at school?” to “What was something interesting you learned at school today?” allows your child to have a deeper level of engagement.

In this article, we will discuss open-ended questions for preschoolers – what they are, why they are important, and examples that you can use at home or in the classroom.

What is an open-ended question?

Open-ended questions are thought-provoking questions we ask our children which can not be answered with a simple yes or no answer. These are very different from closed-ended questions, which only require a one-word answer.

In order to answer an open-ended question, a child must use their higher-order thinking skills to formulate a response.

Rather than asking, “Do you like this dog?” change the question to, “Why do you like this dog?”. The simple addition of the word “why” creates the opportunity for a language-rich conversation.

Why open-ended questions are important

There are so many amazing benefits of open-ended questions for preschoolers. This form of communication can enhance many areas of your child’s development.

Here are 4 reasons why open-ended are so important in early childhood:

1. Improves Language and Communication

The more children practice speaking the better they become at expressing their wants, needs, and thoughts. This is a great way to help reduce frustration and improve trust with your kids. When children can effectively communicate, they are more confident in themselves and their ability to engage in conversation with others.

2. Cognitive Development

When children reply to a question beyond a simple yes or no answer, they develop many important cognitive abilities. Depending on the question you ask, children have to use their planning, problem-solving, and reasoning skills to respond appropriately.

3. Enhances Creativity

When you ask children the right questions, like “What happens when you mix these two colors?” or “What else can you build with those blocks?” you can really get their creative juices flowing! It helps children learn and understand that there is always more than one way of doing something if you start thinking outside the box.

4. Emotional Regulation

One of the greatest benefits of open-ended questions for preschoolers is the influence they have on emotional regulation skills. As you engage with your child and ask them questions, they learn how to control and regulate their behavior and actions in conversation. You can also use these types of questions as a teaching tool to help them better understand their emotions and feelings.

open-ended questions for preschoolers

How to ask open-ended questions for preschoolers

While there is no direct path when engaging in conversations with kids, there are several strategies that will get your child talking with excitement!

Here are 5 tips on how to ask open-ended questions to kids:

1. Use closed-ended questions to start a conversation

In order to figure out what a child is interested in talking about, first ask a closed-ended question. Start by asking something like, “Do you like reading books?”. If the child gets excited about the question you asked, then continue the conversation with more complex questions like, “What is your favorite book?”, “Why is that your favorite book?”, “What is the book about?”.

2. Give kids at least 5 seconds to reply

Always give your child at least 5 seconds to respond to your open-ended question. Kids’ brains are still developing and it takes them longer to process information and formulate a response. Researchers have found that when you give children enough time to answer, they have higher quality and more complex responses. Providing your child with enough time also increases their self-confidence as they have the opportunity to respond independently rather than having an adult respond for them.

3. Listen carefully when kids are responding

One of the best ways to engage a child during conversation is to show your excitement and interest during their response. Research shows that when teachers actively listen with intent and accuracy, it actually helps children develop their communication skills.

4. Expand on your child’s answer

Before moving on to another question, try expanding on the answer the child gave. This is a great way to improve their language development as you model correct grammar and expose them to more advanced language and vocabulary. By doing this you are also increasing the child’s confidence level by helping them learn how to respond to this question in the future.

5. Monitor the child’s engagement

It is important to watch the child’s non-verbal expressions to make sure they are still engaged in the conversation. If you notice that through their facial expressions and body language they are no longer interested, it is important not to force the conversation. Either change topics or move on to something completely different.

open-ended questions preschool

6 Types of open-ended questions for preschoolers + Example questions

There are many different types of open-ended questions. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are 6 different levels of thinking and by preschool age, children should be able to use all 6. It is important we ask open-ended questions of varying levels to help our child gain the most benefits.

Here is a brief description of each level with example questions:

1. Recall Questions

This is the most basic level of questioning and they are essentially asking children to recall or remember information or ideas based on their knowledge.


  • What do bunnies look like?
  • How do you know who your mom is?
  • What is your favorite memory?
  • What happens after it rains?
  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What was your favorite part about today?
  • What do you do when you go to the beach?
  • What are your favorite types of ice cream?
  • What does it sound like when someone is playing the drums?
  • What do flowers smell like?
  • What are your favorite books to read?

2. Comprehension and Understanding Questions

These types of questions allow children to show their understanding of certain ideas or concepts. At this level, children should be able to summarize and interpret things in their own words


  • What does it feel like when you are really happy about something?
  • Can you tell me how an apple is similar to an orange?
  • Which is bigger, an elephant or a mouse? How do you know?
  • What’s the difference between a rock and a feather
  • How would you describe a baby?
  • Can you name 5 different fruits?
  • How are dogs and cats different?
  • What would happen if I gave you a really heavy bag?
  • How can you tell the difference between the sun and the moon?
  • How would you summarize this book?

3. Application Questions

These types of questions allow for higher-level thinking by encouraging children to use abstract thinking to solve problems based on their prior knowledge.


  • What are some things we can do to become stronger?
  • What would you use to make a really big tower?
  • What would you do if someone accidentally knocked over your tower?
  • How are all the different ways you could warm yourself up after being out in the snow?
  • How can you cool yourself down if you are too hot?
  • What would you do if you wanted to draw a pink flower but you don’t have a pink marker?
  • If your friend was sad, how could you make them happy?
  • What would you do if your zipper was stuck on your jacket?
  • What would you do if you needed to move a chair but couldn’t do it by yourself?
  • What foods can we eat to become healthier?

4. Analytical Questions

Analytical questions help children examine how concepts or ideas can be broken down into parts.


  • What are all the different parts of the human body?
  • What comes next in the pattern of _______?
  • How many grains of sand do you think you grab when you pick up a handful of sand?
  • If I have 3 sticks, how can use those sticks to make 4 sticks?
  • How many blocks do you think I need to make a tower this tall?
  • If you have a bag of shells, how can you sort them?
  • How many books do you need if you want to build a library?
  • What materials do you need if you want to paint a picture of a dog?
  • What could you make with 100 blocks?
  • How would you sort all of your different clothes? What piles would you make?
open-ended questions for students

5. Evaluation Questions

These questions really help children learn how to form their own opinions and make formal judgments.


  • What is the most important thing in your life?
  • What makes someone a good friend?
  • Why do you think junk food is bad for kids?
  • What do you think the best thing about being a kid is?
  • Which animals do you think are the most important?
  • What did you enjoy about this book?
  • What is your favorite movie and why?
  • What is your favorite toy and why?
  • What is your favorite part of the school day?

6. Creative Questions

The last level in Bloom’s Taxonomy is creating. These types of questions really spark a child’s creativity and imagination. It allows kids to think of new ideas and make existing ideas and products even better.


  • What materials can we use to make a really big and strong tower?
  • If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
  • If you could change the ending of the book, how would you change it?
  • What would you do to make the world a better place?
  • If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?
  • What are the different ways to make your teacher happy?
  • If you had to build a big wall, what 3 things would you use and why?
  • How can you make your house a more fun play area?
  • How can you make a friendship last forever?
  • If you had to invent something new, what would it be?

While some children are excited and eager to talk, other children may be shy or uncomfortable trying to answer these questions. If this is the case for your child, try modeling the process out load for them. You might want to say, “My backpack is a bit too heavy for me. What should I do to try and make it lighter? I have a lot of stuff in my bag that I do not need. I will look through it and take out the things I do not need and leave them at home! Now my bag is very light and easy to carry!”

The best way to improve a child’s communication and language skills is to practice every day! These open-ended questions for preschoolers are a way to get your children engaged in conversation.

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