Waiting long enough for the children's different responses

Do you know that young children may need quite a long time for thinking and reasoning before they answer a question? On some occasions the youngest may need up to 30 seconds. This can be a challenge for the adult conversation partner. 

Research shows that the adults working with children tend to ask new questions before the child has had a chance to answer the first one. More than half of the students in one of our studies answered that they should have spent more time waiting for the children’s responses before going on with further questions. They pointed this out as a reason why the possibility for exploration was lost. Therefore, it is a good idea to practice waiting time. In this task you can practice waiting in a kind of micro role-play. 

In this video Inga Margrethe Fagerbakke explains why it is so important to wait for a child's response, and explains how you can practice it.

Waiting long enough for a response


Step 1

  • Make groups of 2-4 persons.
  • Find a natural science subject to have a conversation about. It can be a natural material, the current weather phenomenon, or any other topic you can explore in the situation. 

Step 2: 

  1. The first person,A, starts examining the thing without talking. He can shout an utterance of engagement like “Wow!” or “Look!”
  2. The second person in the group, B, asks a question about the object. 
  3. The first person, A, must then wait for at least 5 seconds (count silently) before responding to B.
  • B, who is asking the question, will probably then feel eager to ask more questions and say something more. Reflect on how it feels to wait for the answer. 
  • A – Reflect on your process of examining something, and what you felt during the waiting time. 
  • If you are 3 or 4 persons in a group, you can alternate between the different roles, and observe the conversation between the ones in action. 
  1. Take turns, and then the next person in the group will find something to examine. 


Watch this video and notice the waiting time required before the child answers.

Does the snail have legs?