Asking Questions; Avoiding “I don’t know.”

Avoiding “I don’t know.”

Most parents have experienced this at some point. You ask your child what seems like a simple enough question, perhaps about a book that you are reading, and your child answers, “I don’t know.” It might be something as simple as asking why the mouse is trying to hide the strawberry when reading “The Red Ripe Strawberry.” This can be frustrating; you know that your child is smart enough to answer this question!

The next time you encounter this, try looking at how you’ve worked up to this question. You will see the best results and clearest answers if you work up to more complicated questions from simpler ones that have more concrete answers. In the case of “The Red Ripe Strawberry,” you might want to first ask something with a more obvious answer, such as “What is the mouse doing in this picture?” Then, “Where is he trying to hide the strawberry?” Now when you ask, “Why is the mouse is trying to hide the strawberry?” Then you can expand into more open-ended questions that require more thinking by asking, “Do you think that the bear will find it?” “Why/why not?” Finally, “Why haven’t we seen the bear in this book?”

Keep Questions Flowing

Keeping the flow of questions and answers during interactions with your children, whether reading together or addressing your child’s curiosity about everyday life, and gauging how to best ask questions will promote clearer thinking and foster more meaningful interactions as you share time together!

For a more detailed explanation of “cognitive questioning,” visit:

Ask More Specific Qestions

When asking your child how his/her day at school was, or what he/she did at school, you’ve probably all too often received the answer, “I don’t know.” When you get this answer, try looking closer at the questions that you’re asking; they just might be too openended to get a real response. Try making the questions more specific, and more connected to your child’s likes/excitement. Instead of “What did you do at school today?” try asking, “what was your favorite song that you sang today?” or “what did you make at school today?” You might be surprised at the responses that you get!


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