20 Apr
Children: Questions and Play
Posted by Marcus Veerman
By Jeni Wilson

All of these questions are from Children as the result of play

Why do people want things they don’t need? 

• How can I make a machine that sucks all the rubbish off the earth?

• Do people in the bushfires need company?

Is everything we know proved by science?

• Why do we need the letter ‘k’?

• Why did the first people on earth turn out to be gorillas?

• How did Ford cars become such beasts?

• If I become a sinner after my confirmation, what happens? Do I have my confirmation declined?

These questions were unprompted by any elaborate immersion, they are simply what children are interested in finding out. These questions provide teachers with the opportunity to find out what children know, what they are interested in, and their gaps and misconceptions. For children, it’s through questioning, and subsequent play and exploration, that they learn about the world and their place in the world.

Questions are an insight into children’s minds and hearts. 

To stimulate learning, such questions provide a springboard that has more bounce because they are initiated by children. In addition, children are more likely to be persistent and more resilient when they are seeking the answers to their own questions. 

When children start school they can ask hundreds of questions a day. Sadly,  half way through their first year, children only ask about two questions per day! This is a travesty. 

Hopkins and Craig, n.d.

In addition to impacting on the number of questions that students ask, at school there are certain types of questions that children are more likely to ask. Children learn pretty quickly the sort of questions that are valued. Lower order questions such as recall and managerial questions are more likely to be asked and encouraged (Wragg and Brown, 2001). Questions that require creative thinking are asked less frequently.

Higher order thinking skills and creativity go hand in hand (Godhino and Wilson, 2004). What sort of thinking do you want children to use?

Challenging and surprising students with ‘out there’ ideas and questions can help promote creative thinking and promote further questions from them. Open-ended tasks are also likely to lead to creativity and more student questions. The work of Australian’s such as Dalton (1988), Pohl (1997) and Golding (2002), provide ideas for developing creativity, philosophical thought, questions and depth of concepts.

We need more student questions and talk, and less teacher talk and teacher questions.

Those doing the talking are the ones doing the thinking.

A guaranteed context to change interactions between teachers and student, and students and each other, is through open-ended play.  In open-ended play students automatically ask questions, take risks, use imagination, pose problems, solve problems…. the list of benefits is lengthy  (Hyperlink to p 17 manual).

During play students don’t need to wait for others to initiate ideas or for the teacher to ask questions. They don’t have to guess what the right question might be. During play, as a matter of course, students ask questions to:

– Explore possibilities

– Clarify

– Extend ideas

– Make decisions

– Set goals they monitor themselves 

– Organise others

– Get feedback

– Make connections 

– Get answers

– Solve problems

The great news is we can develop student questions within the context of other curriculum directives by using play. Check out the many ideas in the Nüdel Kart Manual. These ideas are linked to the Australian Curriculum with ideas for primary students of all ages.


Dalton, J. (1988) Adventures in Thinking. Nelson, South Melbourne.

Godhino, S. and Wilson, J. (2004) How to succeed with Questioning. Education Services Australia, Carlton South.

Golding, C. (2002) Connecting Concepts: Thinking activities for students. ACER Press, Melbourne.

Hopkins, D. and Craig, W. (n.d.) Curiosity and Powerful learning. McRel International, Australia. 

Pohl, M. (1997) Teaching thinking skills in the Primary Years. Hawker Brownlow, Melbourne.

Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nudel Kart Teachers Manual (2020)

Wilson, J. and Wing Jan, L. Focus on Inquiry (second edition). Education Services Australia, Carlton South.

Wragg, E. and Brown, G. (2001) Questioning in Primary School. Routledge Falmer, London.