Child Language
What Questions

By four years of age, a child should be able to answer WH questions such as “who,” “what,” and “where.”  

This page will focus on “what” questions:

For a quick grammar review, "what" questions ask about objects and actions. For example:

  • What is this? A pencil
  • What is the girl doing? Riding her bike

Language Milestones Targeted

Expressive Language

Receptive Language

  • Uses about 500 words 
  • Speaks with 4+ word phrases 
  • Understands 900 words 
  • Answers simple WH questions: who, what, where, what doing 

Flash Card Teaching Phase

To initially teach your child how to answer “what” questions, begin with flashcards. The pictures on the cards and reduced distractions of daily life can be very helpful!

As usual, after practicing using flashcards, I recommended moving quickly to the game below since these activities will help with carry over of progress to conversational speech. 

What You Need: What Question Flashcards, What Doing Flashcards

How To Use Cards:  

1. Print the cards or pull them up on some sort of device (computer, tablet, iPad, etc…)

2. Sit down at a table with your child and get out the cards.

3. Ask the question on the card and then answer your own question. Have your child repeat your answer. Do this for a few rounds so your child starts to learn how to answer what questions.   

4.  Once, your child has learned the pattern, ask him/her a question and wait for a response. If your child answers correctly, say good job and move on to the next card. If your child makes a mistake, correct the mistake and have him or her repeat it and then move on. 

5. My recommendation is to repeat this task a few times in a row for about a week or so. Once your child seems to be getting it, move on to the functional games below!

Play Time

What You Need: Any Toys

How To Play: Play with your child and ask “what” and “what doing” questions while you play. This may already be happening naturally. Adults tend to ask “what” questions quite frequently. If not, be aware of them and make sure to ask them!

Make sure to ask both “what” and “what doing” questions. 

Can’t get anymore functional or easier than that!

Tip: If your child does not answer a “what” question correctly, you may have to directly teach that when you say “what’ you want to know the “thing’s name” or when you ask a “what doing” question you want to know the “action.”


What You Need: Books

How To Play:  There are two different ways to play this game. The first way is the easiest!

1. Sit down and read with your child. While reading, periodically point to pictures and say “what is this?” Wait for your child to answer. If he/she says the correct answer, great! If not, correct your child by saying the right answer and move on. 

2. Once your child learns to answer “what” questions about objects, move on to “what doing” questions.  As you start reading, ask what the character is doing or about to do? Such as “what is George doing” and hopefully your child will respond with the correct answer such as “making a cake.” If not, say the correct answer and have your child repeat. 

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