The following guest post is by Maria Rainier, a stay at home mom, freelance writer, and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding online degrees.
It’s no new fact that kids learn when at play, and as parents and teachers, we know that it’s best to tell less and ask more. When at play with toys and make-believe, children engage in self-regulation—inner speech that influences self-discipline and learning in later years according to executive function researcher Laura Berk in NPR article “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills.” By engaging children with questions in their world of learning and make-believe, adults can in fact enhance and help develop a child’s thinking skills.
What questions, then, to ask? Keep the following key points in mind the next time you’re in the sandbox with your kid, courtesy of Clayton Early Learning.
1. Ask questions about concepts.
If your kid is playing with shapes, ask, “Why doesn’t this shape (triangle) fit in this slot (circle)?” If you’re at the park, take animals into consideration. Ask, “Why isn’t this animal (bird) the same as that animal (dog)?”
2. Ask questions to get kids analyzing and reasoning.
The next time you help your child put on a rain jacket, ask, “Why do we need to wear a rain jacket today when we didn’t wear one yesterday?”
3. Ask questions to link thoughts across activities.
When learning about fruits or vegetables, take children into the kitchen and have them observe (or help, if they’re capable) the process of cooking a snack or dinner. Ask, “What can we use this tomato for?”
4. Ask questions to help kids apply concepts to real life.
Try drawing different types of graphs with your child about how many days in the last week it rained, how many dogs they saw at the park over the week, how many red, white, black, blue, and green cars they saw on the way home from the grocery store, etc.
5. Ask questions to inspire creativity.
Encourage brainstorming by asking questions like, “How many ways can we get to the park?”
6. Ask questions to spark observation skills and judgment.
If your child already knows the story of the three pigs (or while reading the story to your child), ask, “Why would you want to live in a straw house? How about a brick house? Which one might protect the three little piggies from the big, bad wolf better?”
7. Ask questions to inspire self-reflection.
Get kid to think about the very process of thinking. This encourages critical thinking skills and even gives them very necessary ego boosts. The next time your kid shows evidence of analysis or creativity, ask, “How did you know that?”