Wonder without asking questions

Wonder without asking questions

All right, raise your hand if you love being quizzed on something you don't know very much about. Hmm, I don't see any hands in the air. Okay, so I'm staring at a computer screen, but I still bet you're not raising your hand.

Kids who are just learning to speak don't feel secure with their ability to express themselves, so when the adults in their lives start showing them pictures and peppering them with questions like What's this?, What's he doing?, and What's going to happen?, these kids often shut down and refuse to talk, much to the frustration of the adults involved, who are "just trying to help."

Questions really aren't therapeutic for language development. If you really want to get a young child to talk to you, a much more effective way is to pay attention to something that the child is interested in at the moment, and verbally express interest in it. This may change from moment to moment, so, as always, you have to follow the child's lead.

Judicious use of "I wonder" statements can be very effective in encouraging a child's curiosity and anticipation. Holding a ball or toy car at the top of a ramp and saying, "I wonder how far it will go" invites the child to make a prediction without putting her on the spot. Whether or not she says anything, you can then say, "let's see," and release the object, then comment (enthusiastically) on how far it went.

One word of caution, however: it's easy to fall into the trap of simply using "I wonder" statements as an alternative way to ask questions, as in, "I wonder what you're doing, Jenna?" followed by a pause during which you look at the child with that 'okay, now you need to answer me' look on your face. Be sure that your non-verbal messages--eye gaze, posture, tone of voice, etc.--clearly communicate that you are just 'thinking aloud,' and the child is welcome, but not expected, to reply.

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