5 Questions to Spark Your Kids’ Creativity and Thoughtfulness
by Leah Ringelstein
Leah Ringelstein is a mom of three and cofounder of Zigazoo, the world’s leading social media platform for kids. Along with her husband, she founded Zigazoo to support a brighter digital future for their own kids and their generation. As Education Director at Zigazoo, she uses her experience as former teacher to guide Zigazoo kids in building confidence, positivity and creativity through play-based video challenges presented by leading children’s media stars, museums, authors, musicians, athletes, and other kids! Leah has always zoomed in on play in her work as a special educator, music educator, arts advocate and now as a mom. She believes that the exploration that play facilitates can unlock healing, learning and connection for kids and adults alike.
Zigazoo’s mission is to give children a safe and positive community where they can find joy, develop healthy online relationships, and aspire to their greatest potential as tomorrow’s digital citizens.
Founded in 2020, Zigazoo gets its inspiration from children and believe in the power of kid creations.
In contrast to most social media platforms, Zigazoo prioritizes safety and positive interactions with features that are carefully designed with your child in mind.
Visit https://zigazoo.com to learn more about us!
Our kids already ask about 10 million questions a day, right? Though it is impossible for parents to field them all, we have 10 million opportunities a day to support and develop our kids’ inquiry processes. Asking kids questions that spark more curiosity and creativity is an essential skill for master educators. As a mom of 3, former special educator and Cofounder and Education Director at Zigazoo (a challenge-based social media app for kids) I am always trying to get better at questions.
How do we frame a challenge to expand a child’s thinking and inspire them to express their brilliance? How do we make sure that our questions aren’t dead ends or so leading that our test-trained littles start sniffing around for the “correct” response? How do we ask questions that breed more questions? How do we respond to questions in ways that open doors rather than closing them? How do we nurture an environment where our kids feel free to ask anything?
Here are five examples of thoughtful questions that will help encourage creative answers:
1. “No” to “Yes or No”
Did you have a good day at school? Can you jump? Do you wish you had a pet dragon? For most kids, these questions will guarantee a “yep” or “nope” and that is it. Adding quantifiers and qualifiers can entice these same questions into descriptive discussions. Can you tell me about a time when you laughed today at school? How many times can you jump? If you had a pet dragon, what would you like to do with it? This second round of questions not only makes our kids feel like we are interested in hearing more details from them but can also spark more detailed responses. For inspiration on how to come up with 10 million very specific questions, just listen to what your kids ask you and volley back.
2. Make Room for Extraordinary Answers
I learned this tip in the art room, but it can certainly reach beyond discussions about art. If we ask questions that have a “correct” answer, many times kids will try to fit their responses into our finite expectations. Especially if they are exposed to a test-driven culture at school where they are trained to uncover predetermined answers on assessments. For example, if a kid shares a drawing they made and I ask, “What is it?” they will try to come up with an object that it looks like, but it may have been a drawing about a feeling, free exploration of texture and color, or there may be a whole story that goes along with this creation in their mind. If I ask, “Can you tell me about your drawing?” or “I see some loopy lines here, how did you make them?” they have an opportunity to jump into a description of their process and what was going on in their imagination, sharing things beyond what we expected from this “sort of dog-looking” tangle of crayons.
3. Questions Aren’t Just About Talking
Grown-ups love talking! Kids benefit from using their verbal skills too, but there are so many other ways to answer a question. Think of a way to learn more about something from your child by asking them to answer with movement, art or acting. Say my son saw a snail at school today, I could ask him to sit there and tell me all about it, but what if I got him to activate the rest of his body by asking “Can you show me with your hands how big the snail was?” “How did the snail move its body?” “Can you make that snail out of clay for me so I can see what it looked like?”
4. Ask About Shoes
Kids often need to do a lot of social and emotional processing, don’t we all?! Stuff happens at school, with their siblings and in their own minds that needs explaining. Kids are exploring who they are and who everyone else is and why. There are so many shoes to walk in and they are exploring them all. I often find myself falling into explaining things in these moments- maybe Bernie hit you because he was upset and didn’t have the words to say so, maybe Cece is following you around because she wants to play, maybe you are feeling irritated because you need to take some time alone. While our kids can definitely benefit from support with navigating these situations, we can also use these social emotional conundrums as opportunities to build compassion by approaching social situations with curiosity. “How did you feel when Bernie did that?” “Have you ever felt that way?” “Let’s pretend I am you and you are Cece, what was happening first? Then what? What do you wish happened next?” When we try to walk in other's shoes (even each others’ shoes) we both end up learning things.
5. The Never-Ending Question
Questions that spark inquiry before landing answers can open rich child-led explorations. The educational pedagogy of Project Based Learning uses a driving question to launch education journeys that are meaningful, engaging, creative and provide opportunity to master standards-based skills in context along the way rather than as the explicit outcome of learning. We can embed this approach in our learning beyond the classroom by helping kids to follow a curiosity or interest along the path of a driving question. Instead of closing the door to curiosity with an answer, what question can you ask back to drive the inquiry deeper? My son asked me this morning “Mom, how do bicycle gears work?” It was easy to respond with a question rather than a lecture because to be honest, I don’t know! So, I said “How do you think they work?” “I don’t know!” “Where can we look to find out more?” My bike! After 10 minutes of bicycle observation, book and video research and a whole bunch of “whys” and “hows” we came to a satisfactory understanding of the process and continued our bike ride. If I had just told him the answer (if I had known the answer) it would have taken 30 sec to close the door on his question and we both would have missed out on a chance the journey of trusting curiosity, building research skills and bonding around learning.
I am so happy to have gotten the chance to write this for you because in writing it I reminded myself to use these tips and skills. I know that I fall into my pattern as a leader and answerer and sometimes too-busy-to give-this-many-questions-the-time-of-day parent, which is human and even valuable in its own right. But to unlock the magic of questions in our life when we can is a great source of joy and growth for the kids and the parents alike! What is the next question you will ask your kids?