It’s no secret that kids spend a lot of time in their own little world. As an adult, glimpses into that world can be sporadic and baffling. Often, the major insights into children’s lives come from their demands and requests. For example, it’s pretty easy to figure out a child’s favorite TV show based on what they’re asking to watch the most. The same rule applies to their favorite food, favorite game, favorite bedtime story, and so on.
Of course, a child is their own person, and by the age of three has developed a strong sense of self. That means they have opinions and identities beyond just the demands they’re making and are eager for you to understand that identity.
Whether you’re a teacher heading into a new school year, a parent who finds themselves needing to catch up with a child who is spending more time at school, or an aunt, uncle, or older cousin looking for ways to have a conversation with young relatives at the upcoming holidays, knowing how to talk to children is important.
These get to know you questions for kids will help you understand the children in your life, and help them feel understood and valued by you.
Before we look at some specific examples of good questions to ask, let’s take a minute to understand what makes these questions good ones
First, it should be something they can have an opinion about, or assign a value to. Questions about facts and information aren’t as exciting and probably won’t get the same response and engagement. Consider the difference between “what happened at school today?” and “what was your favorite part of school today?” The former may result in the child giving a list of events that they were excited about, or they might not have the interest or attention to answer the whole question. The latter cuts right to what the child wants to tell you, so why not start there?
The exception to this rule is if you’re asking a follow-up question to something they’ve expressed an opinion on. For instance, if you ask “what’s your favorite dinosaur?” (trust me, every kid has one) once they’ve told you it’s T-Rex or Velociraptor or something you’ve long since forgotten how to pronounce, you can ask them why it’s their favorite. What makes it cool? What can it do?
The second thing is to ask questions they will likely have formed opinions about on their own and will be able to articulate. Asking what their favorite sports team is will probably get you an answer, but most likely one they learned from their parents. Asking a child (especially one under 10) what their favorite car is will probably send them running for a box of Hot Wheels rather than getting a verbal answer. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you have the time and space to play with cars. Plus, children voluntarily sharing toys can have major developmental benefits. Just be aware that certain questions may have answers that children don’t have the words or resources to answer.
With that out of the way, here are 50+ of the best get to know you questions you can ask children.
“Favorite” questions are suitable for any age, though younger children may respond better if you rephrase the question as “what is the best…”
“If you could…” questions require a bit more abstract thinking than “favorite” questions, even if they are often the same question, so they might not be the best for very young children. That said, don’t talk down to or underestimate the children in your life.
Would you rather questions are a great way to spark children’s imagination or get them thinking about new topics.
“This or that” questions are sort of like “would you rather” questions, but they allow kids to express opinions and favorites inside a guided framework.
The most important thing, for children of any age, is not talking down to them. You’re trying to get them to engage and respond, not shut down or look down at you.
The best Get To Know You Questions to ask five-year-olds are typically going to be about things that excite them. Ask questions about their favorite things, or topics you know they’re interested in. If you know they have a favorite TV show, ask who their favorite characters are. Ask to see their favorite toys, or what their favorite stories are. At this age, children have a rapidly developing sense of self and want to share that with the world. Be excited both as you’re asking the questions, and getting answers.
As children get older, they want to be seen as older and will make definite efforts to distance themselves from things they view as too childish. (Think of how much children who have outgrown Barney hate Barney) The best questions for eight-year-olds and older children are going to be ones they think are important, and aren’t as childish. The biggest thing here is going to be tone, be interested, but not too “goofy” or “bouncy.”
Older children are going to enjoy questions that have more abstract thinking involved. “Would you rather” or “if you could” questions will be best. Be conversational, and give answers to the questions as well.
The best questions for teachers are going to function as ways to get to know the class and let the class get to know each other. It’s not going to be feasible to ask these questions to children individually. Instead, here are some ideas of how you can incorporate these questions into the warm-up and icebreaker activities.
Put together a list of “This or That” and “Would You Rather” questions (or use the one above). Clear a space in the middle of the room, or go outside or to the gymnasium or similar open area. Indicate to the children to go to one side of the area if they prefer one answer, and the other if they prefer the other. The kids will have fun switching sides and will see the things they have in common with the other students.
Create a list of “favorite” questions and a list of common answers to those questions, such as favorite ice creams. Then, ask students to raise their hand if their favorite is chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mint, and so on.
Alternately, have all the students raise their hands (or stand up) and then sit down as you call off their favorite. The student(s) left standing can tell the class what their favorite is.
For older children, “would you rather” or “if you could” questions can serve as excellent prompts for creative writing exercises. Discuss the question briefly, then assign a short writing project where they describe what they would do in the situation you’ve discussed.