The 5 Best Answers to your Child’s Questions (that encourage executive functioning skills)

Children ask A LOT of questions.  They ask because they want to learn things.  They ask because they already know things and just want to confirm it.  They ask to make conversation.  They ask to get attention.  They ask just to annoy us (or at least it seems that way).

The truth is that our children are trying to talk to us, trying to engage with us, and trying to learn from us.  Take the chance while it is still there.  However, I rarely answer my children’s questions (especially since they rarely want to know the answer).  I find that giving answers that encourage the child to think and respond are a great way to develop executive functioning skills and higher level thinking, such as…

  • making inferences
  • using logic and reasoning
  • problem solving
  • flexible thinking
  • making predictions
  • critical thinking and skepticism
  • social and conversation skills
 5. What do you think?

Example: Child: Why can’t I eat candy off the mall floor?  Adult: What do you think?

The quickest and easiest answer.  Often a great way to stop repetitive questioning when you child knows the answer and is just seeking attention (or they just want to confirm an answer because children learn through repetition).

 4. How can we find out?  Who could we ask?  Where could we find that answer?

Example: Child: Why is the moon out during the daytime?  Adult: I’m not sure, how could we find out?

When there is actually an answer to be discovered, giving them clues about how they could find out on their own.

3. I don’t know, let’s make a guess together.

Example: Child: Why do the worms like living in the dirt?  Adult: I don’t know, let’s look closely and make a guess together?

When there isn’t an answer or there is not an age-appropriate answer, it is ok to make a guess together (or a theory or hypothesis for older children).

 2. What could happen if you ____?  (Or, how would that make ____ feel?)

Example: Child: Can I wear my sister’s tutu to karate?  Adult: How might sister feel about that?  What might happen to a tutu at karate?

Children often ask “what if” or “can I” questions.  Rather than answer, let them think about the reasoning behind the answer.  This is a great way to build social skills as well empathy when the question is about other people.

1. Give an outrageous or silly answer and let them correct you.

Example: Child: Can I wear socks to school?  Adult: Nope, no socks allowed at school on Tuesdays.

My favorite response is to give an answer that makes absolutely no sense.  Children love to correct adults and be “right,” and this gives a wonderful chance to have your child try to convince you through logic skills.  This also helps to build a healthy amount of skepticism that all children need.

Interested in learning more about executive functioning- visit this posts:

Now What?  What Parent, Teachers, and Therapists can do to Encourage Executive Function and Self-Regulation Skills in Everyday Life

Impulse Control: Home Activities and Game

5 Free at Home Activities for Helping Children Learn Self-regulation

5 Fun Ways to Learn Deep Breathing to Help Children Learn Self-regulation

5 Free Online Resources for Helping Children Learn Self-Regulation


Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.