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Decreasing questions

A common pattern that caregivers fall into is asking too many questions.

When modelling language it is important to avoid asking too many questions. Here are some tips to consider when asking questions:

  • Decrease the number of questions as asking too many questions can put pressure on your child
  • Avoid questions to test your child’s knowledge
  • Ask your child one question at a time and give them enough time to respond (waiting at least 10 seconds)
  • Avoid questions that answer themselves
  • Avoid questions that are unrelated to your child’s interests
  • If your child looks like they are unsure of the answer and you have waited long enough for them to respond, model the correct answer
  • Balance questions with comments, ideally make more comments than questions

Types of questions to use

Choice Questions

This lets your child chose between two things (e.g. do you want apple or banana?). Children are often able to respond to these types of questions first as they can respond with a gesture or action.

Yes or No Questions

These questions can be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ such "is this a (_)?" or "do you want a (_)?". Yes/no questions enable you to communicate with your child before they start using words as they can respond non-verbally by nodding or shaking their head or using a gesture or a key word sign. As your child’s language grows avoid using too many yes/no questions as they stop the conversation.


Questions that start with What, Who, Where, When or Why. Start off by using simple WH- questions such as ‘Where’s your doll?’. Think about ways your child can answer the question non-verbally by showing you or using a gesture or an action. Avoid when, why and how questions as these require more complex language. As their language skills progress, open ended questions can be used keep to conversation going.

Questions can be simplified by:

  • repeating the question slowly and pausing before key words for emphasis
    • e.g. – “What is the [pause] bear doing?”
  • rephrasing the question
    • e.g. – “Tell me what the bear is doing.”
  • breaking the question up into parts
    • e.g. – “What am I doing [move your arms and hips to indicate dancing]?” … “What is the bear doing?”
  • giving your child two possible answers to choose from
    • e.g. – “Is the bear dancing or sitting down?”
  • starting the sentence for your child to finish
    • e.g. – “Then the bear started to …?”

Let's watch...

What happened when the parent asked lots of questions?

The child didn’t respond or communicate.

Let's break it down...

Let's watch...

How did the child respond when the parent asked less questions and used more comments?

The child was able to respond, and the parent was able to keep the interaction going and model a variety of different words.

Let's break it down...

Let's watch...

What kinds of questions did the mother ask her child?

WH questions such as "who's that?", "what does doggy do?", "what is the X doing?" and yes/no questions such as "is that a snake?".

How did the parent help her child to answer questions?

She pointed to the answer or gave her the answer by saying the word e.g. "monkey".

How did the child respond to the questions?

By making sounds and doing actions. She also made some word approximations (saying part of a word).

What types of words does the parent add?

Describing words such as "big" and "yummy". Number words such as "one". Body parts such as "tummy". Social words such as "please" and "ta". Action words such as "sit".

Caregiver Self Reflection

At home:

  • What kinds of questions do you ask your child?
  • What questions does your child respond best to?
  • Do you find yourself asking your child too many questions?
  • What could you do to model language instead of asking a question?

Last updated 13 Jul 2023