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Creative Questioning & Thinking

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

Good questions encourage children to think outside the box, to think and solve problems creatively.  And creative thinking is a problem solving skill that the employers of today (and tomorrow) are looking for.

As technology races ahead, workers are becoming more susceptible to being computerized right out of their jobs, with a whopping 47% of current jobs at risk. For workers of the future to win the employment race, they will have to increase their creative and social skills.

There are many way to encourage creativity. Today we explore Creative Questioning, which can help young children be creative by stimulating their imagination and encouraging problem solving.

Creative Questioning

Learn how to extend children's play through comments and questions. Stimulate creative ideas by encouraging children to come up with new and unusual uses of equipment. Try to remain open to new and original ideas, and encourage children to come up with more than one solution or answer. Be careful about over-restricting equipment and make sure to have play materials quickly available when children want them. Buy and use equipment in ways that encourage the use of imagination. Avoid toys and activities that spell everything out for the child and leave nothing to the imagination. Provide children with a good range and balance of equipment, and keep equipment exciting by changing it frequently or changing its location.

The following are examples of creative questioning activities -

  • Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a yes or a no. This encourages children to express their feelings and evaluate their choices. Show the child a picture then ask questions to stimulate and create a thinking atmosphere, for example: What are the people in the picture doing? What are the people saying? What would happen if ...?

  • Ask children to use their senses: Young children may often have their creative talents stretched by asking them to use their senses in an unusual way.

  • Play guessing games: Have children close their eyes and then guess what you have placed in their hands (a piece of foam rubber, a small rock, etc.) or guess what they hear (shuffling cards, jingling coins, rubbing sandpaper, ripping paper, etc.).

  • Ask children about changes: One way to help children to think more creatively is to ask them to change things to make them the way they would like them to be. Ask questions that require creative thinking, such as:

    • What would taste better if it were sweeter?

    • What would be nicer if it were smaller?

    • What would be more fun if it were faster?

    • What would be better if it were quieter?

    • What would be happier if it were bigger?

    • What could be more exciting if it went backwards?

  • Ask questions with lots of answers. Anytime you ask a child a question which requires a variety of answers, you are aiding creative thinking skills.

  • Ask "What would happen if..." questions. Explore concepts such as fire, sand, cars, smoke, ice by asking what would happen in different situations. Here are some examples using the concept of water:

    • What are some of the uses of water?

    • What floats in water?

    • How does water help us?

    • Why is cold water cold?

    • What always stays underwater?

    • What are the different colors that water can be?

  • Ask "In how many different ways..." questions. These questions also extend a child's creative thinking. Some examples include:

    • In how many different ways could a spoon be used?

    • In how many different ways could a button be used?

    • In how many different ways could a string be used?

    • Consider the learning potential of simply shifting the way you ask your child questions…

  • “Can you see the rainbow in the sky?” versus “I wonder how does the rainbow get into the sky?”

  • “What is this part of the elephant called? (pointing to trunk)” versus “What would you do if you had a trunk?”

  • “Can you see it’s raining?” versus “How does the rain get into the sky?”

  • “What colour is this?” versus “What does this colour make you think of?”

  • “What type of dinosaur is this?” versus “Do dinosaurs have friends?”

  • “Can you see the bird flying in the sky?” versus “What would happen if you could fly?”

  • “Where do fish live?” versus “What do you think would be most exciting about living underwater?”

  • “What will we do tomorrow?” versus “How do you think tomorrow gets here, to where we are?”

  • “What is that noise?” versus “What would that noise look like if we tried to draw it?”

  • “Can you see the lizard?” versus “Why do you think lizards lie in the sun?”

Barriers to creativity

Often children are not able to perform at their best because of outside influences that make them feel pressured or insecure:

Reward - When people do not expect a reward, they are more creative and enjoy the process more.

Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation - As in the case of reward, external motivation, such as money or special privileges, undermines creativity and deprives a child of the intrinsic pleasure of creative activity.

Expected external evaluation - Knowing beforehand that a piece of art is going to be graded, can lead to a decrease in creativity. When we constantly make kids worry about how they are doing, they ignore satisfaction with their accomplishments.

Peer pressure - There is some evidence that pressure to conform can lead to temporary decreases in creativity.

Surveillance - Being observed by others while engaged in a creative process can undermine the creativity of a performance.

Competition - Putting kids in a win-lose situation, where only one person can come out on top negates the process that children progress at their own rates.

Pressure from adults - Establishing grandiose expectations for a child's performance often ends up instilling aversion for a subject or activity. Unreasonably high expectations often pressure children to perform and conform within strictly prescribed guidelines, and, again, deter experimentation, exploration, and innovation. Grandiose expectations are often beyond children's developmental capabilities.

Over-control - Constantly telling kid how to do things often leaves children feeling like their originality is a mistake and any exploration a waste of time.

Restricting choice - Telling children which activities they should engage in instead of letting them follow where their curiosity and passion lead again restricts active exploration and experimentation that might lead to creative discovery and production.

Not choosing the right toys - Avoid toys and activities that spell everything out for the child and leave nothing to the imagination. Provide children with a good range and balance of equipment, and keep equipment exciting by changing it frequently or changing its location.

In our next blog...

we explore the best kinds of toys to buy that encourage creativity.

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