How to Ask Questions So Children Want to Answer

WindowGood conversations are like windows; they help us see and be seen.

Conversations with your child create heart-to-heart connection. You get to learn what your child feels and thinks and what she experiences away from you. Your child gains confidence and develops a deep sense of value when mom and dad want to hear what he has to say.

But many children aren’t natural-born talkers. Often they need to be drawn out and encouraged.

So we ask questions. We’ve all experienced the “How-was-your-day?” “Fine” syndrome, however, and wondered why our child doesn’t want to tell us more.

We need to be using open-ending questions instead of questions that can be answered with just one word, especially yes and no, fine, nothing, and OK.

Open-ended questions don’t have right or wrong answers. Instead they invite children to share, to think, and to problem solve. When you ask a child an open-ended question, he feels important to you and feels that his response is important to you. He thinks about the question to express his ideas.

In addition, young children need questions that are more specific than general.

So instead of “Did you have fun at school today?” try:
“Tell me about the game you played at recess.”
“I wonder what you had for lunch today.””What was hard about your day?”
“Tell me what was happy about today.”

Reading books and watching TV shows or movies offer many opportunities for open-ended questions:
“What do you think is about to happen?”
“Do you think there is another way to ______ ?”
“If you were _____ , what would you do?”

Pay attention to your child’s interests and problems and ask questions about those too:
“Tell me about your drawing.”
“Tell me what you like about tae kwon do.”
“What do you think might happen if you _____ ?”

Open-ended questions usually start with How, Tell me, What, Where, When, or Why.

It might take some time to learn to use open-ended questions, and time for your child to get used to hearing them and begin to engage with you. Be patient. As you build respect for their thoughts and answers, children want to respond!

Bedtime can be a good talk time. To celebrate the release of my new book, Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers, I’m doing a different giveaway here on my blog each week in February! The winner of last week’s giveaway is Linda Moffitt. Congratulations!

SmallWTDOTHIS WEEK’S PRIZE: An autographed copy of Words to Dream On plus a copy of Tuck-Me-In Talks, by Grace Fox. Inside you’ll find dozens of topics and open-ended questions that are sure to start some great conversations!

Tuck-Me-In-Talks-with-Your-Little-OnesThe giveaway begins now and ends Saturday, February 21, at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Winner must live within the continental United States.

To enter the giveaway, just leave “I’d love to win” as a comment below OR sign up for my quarterly newsletter (use the box at the left).

Winner will be announced in my post on Monday, February 23.

– Diane

He’s Been Reading to His Kids at Bedtime for 22 Years!


Chris Blair

We often say children spell love T-I-M-E.

But I wonder if they don’t also spell it R-E-A-D.

Chris and Pam Blair of Mt. Healthy, Ohio, are parents to five great kids. On Facebook, Pam recently posted this photo of Chris reading aloud and said:

This man has been reading to the kids about every night for nearly 22 years. He started reading to Courtney when she was an infant. He’s read everything–from classics, historical novels, and fantasy to delightful children’s literature.

After reading he prays with the whole family, then tucks in each child, taking time to talk to each one about their day, or anything that’s on their heart. Our kids LOVE their bedtime routine. Who wouldn’t with such an attentive, intentional daddy?

I agree, Pam! What a wonderful way to speak blessing to children year after year!

Quick … choose a good book, then make a plan to start reading aloud to your kids. (Bedtime could be the perfect time, but if another time of day works better, that’s fine too!)

If you need help finding the best books to read, one good resource is The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease. (And I’m giving away a copy as part of this week’s celebration of the release of my new book, Words to Dream On!)

Here are some read-aloud tips to get you started.

• Try varying your voice or adding sound effects as you read. No need to be shy!

• If you’re reading an illustrated book, take time to talk about the pictures. Invite your child to tell you what’s happening in a picture, how a character in an illustration is feeling, or what might happen next.

• Let your child interrupt the story to ask questions.

• Encourage younger children to hold the book and turn the pages as you read.

• Try to relate a story to your child’s real-world experiences, for example, “Do you remember when our family took a trip?” or “That donkey looks like the one you rode at the petting zoo.”

• If your child likes to read aloud, take turns. Let him read to you.

• Remember that good books are made to be read more than once.

Happy reading, and sweet dreams!

To celebrate the release of my new book, Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers, I’m doing a different giveaway here on my blog each week in February! The winner of last week’s giveaway is Hillary Bullions. Congratulations!

THIS WEEK’S PRIZE: An autographed copy of Words to Dream On plus a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease.

The giveaway begins now and ends Saturday, February 14, at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Winner must live within the continental United States.

To enter the giveaway, just leave “I’d love to win” as a comment below OR sign up for my quarterly newsletter (use the box at the left).

Winner will be announced in my post on Monday, February 16.

– Diane

Children’s Books for Valentine’s Day

My Valentine for Jesus, by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton (Zonderkidz)

My Valentine for Jesus, by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton (Zonderkidz)

Will you be giving or sending Valentines to your children or grandchildren this week? How about a book for Valentine’s Day too?

The two Christian stores I visited this week had lots of Valentine merchandise, but no displays of Valentine books. But holidays can be wonderful teaching and learning times for children and families. Books about love are a staple among Christian children’s books, however, and there were quite a few books about God’s love and family love on the shelves. Christian-themed Valentine books exist too; you just might have to go online to purchase them.

Here are some titles that just might be the way for you to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” this year.

Picture Books

GodGaveUsLoveIn God Gave Us Love, by Lisa Tawn Bergren (Waterbrook), Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, leading to lots of conversation about different kinds of love, God’s love, and showing love to others.

Although the story line is mostly conversation, the winsome illustrations by Laura J. Bryant provide plenty of action and things to see.

Love Letters from God, by Glenys Nellist (Zonderkidz), features retold Bible stories each with a lift-the-flap “letter” from God for children to open. I wrote about this book last fall when I featured it as The Book I Bought for September.

Board Books

ILoveYouAllTheSameIn I Love You All the Same, by Donna Keith (Tommy Nelson), three very different siblings–Polar Bear, Brown Bear, and Panda Bear–learn that despite their differences, each is greatly loved by Mama and Papa Bear.

LoveBugYou’re My Little Love Bug, produced by Smart Kidz, can be personalized with a child’s photograph. Press the sound button to hear a fun song–and it’s the clearest sound I’ve ever heard embedded in a book! The last page of the book makes God’s love the setting.

Books about Valentine’s Day

SabudaValentineIf you’re looking for a book to help children learn about the holiday, consider The Story of Valentine’s Day board book for younger children, by Nancy Skarmeas (Ideals).

Early elementary readers should enjoy hearing the story of Saint Valentine, written and illustrated, with colorful paper mosaics, by Robert Sabuda (Aladdin).


Happy Valentine’s Day!



– Diane

New Release! Words to Dream On


Young children thrive on routine and ritual, and a Bible story at bedtime is one of the best! Plus, what could be better for a child at bedtime than to fall asleep with stories and verses from the Bible to dream on?

I’m soooooo pleased to tell you about my new book, Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers, illustrated by Diane Le Feyer and published by Tommy Nelson!

The official release date is tomorrow, February 3. To celebrate, I’m doing a different giveaway here on my blog each week in February!

Where Faith Begins
I always want to tell the whole Bible story, from Genesis to Revelation, in any Bible storybook. For this book, I especially wanted to include stories that would help create a strong sense of security in God’s love.

All the stories in Words to Dream On focus on God—his power, his protection, his promises, his loving care, his plan. For example, in the story of the fall of Jericho, after the walls fall down, I didn’t write about the battle, but about how the Israelites could now keep moving forward in the Promised Land that God was giving them.

Each story has Words to Dream On–a Bible verse. There’s also a Sleepy-Time Prayer and a Bedtime Blessing.

You can view and read a Words to Dream On sampler here.

Here’s what one early reviewer wrote about the book:

“EXCELLENT Bible storybook for ages 4-8. … Great way to grow real Bible literacy in young children. Beautifully presented–embossed cover and abundant, colorful illustrations. Five stars! Highly recommend.”

Illustrator Diane Le Feyer is a young freelance artist and animator. She was such a blessing to have on this project. I especially enjoyed how she portrayed Jesus in the book and how she kept track of all twelve disciples!

Now on to this week’s giveaway!

THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY PRIZE: An autographed copy of Words to Dream On plus a $25 Carter’s/OshKosh B’gosh gift card—for new pajamas, maybe?

The giveaway begins now and ends Saturday, February 7, at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Winner must live within the continental United States.

To enter the giveaway, just leave “I’d love to win” as a comment below OR sign up for my quarterly newsletter (use the box at the left).

Winner will be announced in my post on Monday, February 9.

– Diane

Five Ways to Give Children the Gift of God’s Word

presentIf I could give only one gift to my children and grandchildren, it would be knowledge of the Bible, the written Word of God.

Ultimately, I want them to know and follow Jesus. But it is God’s Word that will prepare them to accept him, teach them how to follow him, and strengthen them to remain true to him as they grow up in our chaotic world.

So how can we give children the gift of God’s Word? Here are five essential ways.

Let them see it
Where is your Bible right now—on a shelf? on a bedside table? on your phone?

Keep a Bible on your kitchen table or in your family room, and let your children and grandchildren see you reading it. Even babies can learn to recognize the Bible as something special.

Let them hear it
Read God’s Word aloud. Some families make this a part of their daily routine, often after a meal. If you’re not sure where to start, try the psalms or one of the Gospels.

How about listening together? Bible apps such as YouVersion and sites like offer audio Bibles in several versions. Scripture set to music is another good way children can hear the Word of God.

Allow young children to play quietly nearby as you read or listen—you’ll be surprised at how much they hear and understand.

Let them read it
You read books with your children because it’s fun and you know it impacts their mental and emotional development. Be sure to include good Bible storybooks among the books you read together.

Some Bible storybooks feature activity ideas or talking points to go along with each story—especially helpful to busy parents or if you’re unfamiliar with the Bible yourself.

Help them learn it
The psalmist wrote that he had “stored up” God’s Word in his heart (Psalm 119:11). Jesus countered the devil’s temptations in the wilderness with Scripture. The apostle Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16 ESV).

Children memorize easily—just think about how quickly they could belt out all the lyrics to “Let It Go”! Let’s give them the opportunity and the example of memorizing God’s Word. Repetition and review and making it fun are key.

Help them live it
A Facebook friend posted about her two-year-old son’s serious tumble that resulted in 40 stitches. Her daughter, at four, felt responsible even though she was not. One way she dealt with her stress was by sitting down with her Bible and “reading.” I have a feeling she had seen her mother turn to her Bible during other stressful times.

Besides our example, we also teach by what we say as life unfolds day by day. Moses’ instructions to the Israelites after they received God’s commandments can guide us: “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6).

Which of these five tips do you need the most help with? Let me know in a comment below.

We feed our children and grandchildren to nourish their growing bodies. But “people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3 NLT). Let’s be sure we nourish children’s souls too. There’s power in the Word of God!

Scripture from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

WordsToDreamOnHere’s a book to add to your bedtime reading collection, my new Bible storybook Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers. Available for preorder now and releases February 3.

– Diane

How to Speak Blessing to Your Child


Do you know what your child wants from you more than anything else?

Your blessing–your unconditional love and acceptance.

Most of us see our children as the gifts from God they are. We enjoy each day as they grow and explore the world; we dream about their futures. Truly, we love and accept them even before they are born.

But children don’t always feel accepted and loved—known. Sometimes, looking back, we see that what we felt didn’t reflect our parents’ intentions or reality. They just didn’t know how to communicate their blessing.

In the early 1990s, John Trent and Gary Smalley wrote The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance. In their book they outline five aspects of blessing, based on parental blessings in the Bible and in the lives of Jewish families in Bible times:

Meaningful touch. Perhaps a hug or a hand on the child’s head or shoulder.
A spoken message. Our children need to hear our blessing.
Attaching high value. We choose words that affirm our child’s intrinsic worth and individual traits.
Picturing a special future. We affirm good things to come.
An active commitment. We will be there to help and support.

Each of these five parts is present in a more formal blessing, such as might take place on a birthday or other special day. In day-to-day life, blessing is given when each of the parts is present in the child’s life on a regular basis. Trent and Smalley surveyed adults who felt that as children they had received their parents’ blessing. Some of the ways those blessings were communicated:

“My parents would take the time to really listen to me when I talked to them by looking directly into my eyes.”

“My mother would let me explain my point of view on issues–even when she disagreed with me. She always made me feel that my opinion was important.”

“As a family, we often read and discussed the book The Velveteen Rabbit, which talks about how valuable we are.”

“My father would put his arm around me at church and let me lay my head on his shoulder.”

“My mother got interested in computers just because I was interested in them.”

Blessings can be based on Scripture too. Here’s one from the book:

“Oh Lord, may ______________ never forget Your teaching. Let [his/her] heart keep Your commandments. Then, Lord, You will give _______________ many more days and years and You will add peace to [his/her] life.

“May kindness and truth never leave [him/her], Lord, may [he/she] bind them around [his/her] neck and write them on [his/her] heart.

“Then Lord, You will give [him/her] favor and a good reputation both with you and man” (Proverbs 3:1-4).

So many of God’s promises are statements of how he blesses us. My new Bible storybook, Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers, includes a Bedtime Blessing with every story–a short summary of the story’s message.

We can bless others besides our children when we practice the five aspects of blessing in our interactions with others, and it’s never too late to improve! The speaking part is the aspect that has never come easily to me; I’m still working on it!

Does your family practice blessing? Is there an aspect of giving a blessing that you find especially easy or difficult? Your thoughts and comments always bless me. I would love to hear from you!

SmallWTDOAvailable for preorder now and releases February 3.

– Diane

The Book I Bought for January: Devotions for Beginning Readers

DevotionsBeginningWelcome to the start of my monthly 2015 series, “The Book I Bought for …” It was so much fun last year, I have to do it again!

All through 2014 I bought a book a month to support retailers and authors and recommended the books to you here on my blog. Then I put the books into an after Christmas giveaway.

Your responses to the recommendations and the giveaway encouraged me so much–thank you!  Now let’s turn the spotlight again on excellent books for a child’s growing faith.

The book I bought for January

For January I chose Devotions for Beginning Readers by Crystal Bowman and Christy Lee Taylor, illustrated by Sophie Burrows, published by Tommy Nelson.

Crystal, a former teacher, has written popular devotions books for younger children, including The One Year Book of Devotions for Preschoolers and some of the Little Blessings books. Devotions for Beginning Readers is for new and beginning readers.

I love the concept of this book!

230 short, kid-friendly, easy-to-understand devotions use carefully selected vocabulary geared to prekindergarten through second grade reading levels. Words from the Dolch sight word list are also included.

Each devotion features a Today’s Word, repeated frequently to help young readers build vocabulary and confidence.

A Bible verse heads each devotion, and a short prayer follows.

I love the look of this book!

Page layouts are similar throughout the book, so new readers won’t get confused. But the pages aren’t boring! Color bars and blocks, large colorful titles, and upbeat illustrations keep things lively. The illustrations include both biblical and contemporary scenes and people, and the people are ethnically diverse–a big plus.


I would have liked the text fonts to be just a bit larger and heavier, but that might be because my eyes are a little older than those of the readers the book is for!

I love the goal of this book too!

The back cover expresses it well:

Build confidence in young readers as they learn about God’s love . . .

A love for reading starts at an early age. And there is nothing more important or life changing for a child to read than the message of God’s love!

– Diane

How to Choose the Right Bible Storybook for Your Child

bookshelfWhen you’re shopping for a new Bible storybook for your child, you can feel overwhelmed by all the options. How do you decide? Here are 5 tips to help you sort through all the possibilities, whether you’re at a bookstore or online.

Match the format to your child’s age and interests
Babies and toddlers enjoy board books because they can turn the pages themselves. Books with long stories and more text than illustration are best for older children. Most Bible storybooks for preschoolers and beginning readers fall somewhere in between.

Consider illustration too. Most children respond well to bright colors and a range of contemporary art styles—but contemporary doesn’t have to mean inaccurate. Older children can appreciate more realistic portrayals of Bible times.

Look at the Contents page
Are both Old and New Testament stories well represented? Do the stories present the overall story arc of the whole Bible, ifrom Genesis to Revelation?

Read a story or two aloud
Does the writing flow well, with interesting rhythms? Is the writing style appropriate for your child’s age and attention span? You’ll be reading from this Bible storybook often. The experience should be a pleasant one for your child and for you too.

Do you want a straightforward retelling of the stories or a freer style with more embellishments? Both exist and both can be done with excellence.

Check out how the author handles hard topics
The Bible addresses some realities beyond the understanding of young children, such as the devastation of the flood, the total destruction of Jericho, or the details of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion. Choose a Bible storybook that presents truths in age-appropriate ways.

SmallWTDOFor example, in my upcoming Bible storybook Words to Dream On, in the story of the fall of Jericho, I didn’t write about the battle after the walls fell down. Instead I ended the story by commenting that the Israelites could now keep moving forward into the Promised Land God was giving them.

Choose the right “hook” for your child or your family
Some Bible storybooks feature activity ideas or talking points to go along with each story—especially helpful to busy parents or if you are and unfamiliar with the Bible yourself. New or beginning readers might want stories they can read with little or no help. Sometimes the hook might be application, or life lessons. But be careful–when Bible stories are presented only as lessons about how to behave, children often get the wrong message and decide that good behavior is the way to find acceptance with God.

Now that you know what to look for, I hope you’ll enjoy reading a new Bible storybook with your child soon.

Here’s a book to add to your bedtime reading collection, my new Bible storybook Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers. Available for preorder now and releases February 3.

Does your child have a favorite Bible storybook?
Share it with others in the comments below.

– Diane

“But I’m Not Tired!” Five Tips for Better Bedtimes

sleeping childHolidays can be full of excitement and wonder for children and families, but activity changes, travel, and all the fun can thoroughly disrupt children’s sleep schedules. So here are five tips for creating or getting back to a better bedtime routine in the new year.

Make a plan
Activities to include in your bedtime plan might include a bath, pajamas, a snack, brushing teeth, reading together, talk time, and prayer. Consider making a Bible story from a good Bible storybook part of your routine too.

Set specific bedtimes based on each child’s age and activities. Not all children are wired alike; some have definite night-owl tendencies, and trying to put a child to bed before he’s actually tired can backfire.

If your child has been staying up too late, set a temporary bedtime at the time he normally falls asleep and start your new bedtime routine about 30 minutes earlier. Then, once the routine is established, begin to move it back in 15-minute increments until your child is falling asleep easily at the desired time.

Be consistent
Children thrive on routine and knowing what to expect, so unless special circumstances dictate, stick to your plan. When bedtimes are consistent, children can predict what’s going to happen next, which helps them feel secure.

Sometimes gentle reminders are needed: “Three more minutes, then it’s time to get into your pajamas.”

Help children relax
Avoid energetic or competitive games as bedtime approaches, and choose quiet activities instead. Following up with a warm bath or shower, a good hair brushing, or a foot rub can help children relax. Make bedtime snacks sleep inducing, like a cup of warm milk or cocoa.

Don’t give up
If you’re making big changes, the first few nights are likely to be quite challenging. But stick to the new routine—you should start to see substantial improvement with the first few weeks.

In the morning, reward your child for what he did well the night before, without focusing on what didn’t happen. Stickers and praise can work wonders.

Get help if you need it
Some children develop bedtime fears, and many children test limits by resisting going to bed, with repeated questions, unreasonable requests, crying, or coming into your room throughout the night. Everyone in the household needs a good night’s rest, so don’t be ashamed to ask for help instead of letting the situation go on and on. Your pediatrician is a good place to start, and so are other parents who have experienced the same difficulties—an online search can put you in touch.

WordsToDreamOnHere’s a book to add to your bedtime reading collection, my new Bible storybook Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers. Available for preorder now and releases February 3.

Got a bedtime tip that’s worked for your family or a favorite book to read at bedtime?
Share it with others in the comments below.


– Diane

After Christmas Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to Charlene Sydnor, Christine Smyth, and Rita Antoinette Borg–the 1-2-3 winners in my After Christmas Giveaway!

I’ll be contacting each of you in order by e-mail so you can choose the book you’d like to receive and provide your mailing address. You’ll also receive a copy of my newest book, The Sweetest Story Bible for Toddlers.

Thanks and blessings to everyone who participated in the giveaway. There’s much more fun and celebration coming in 2015, and I want to stay connected with you. Please use the Follow Me! buttons and sign up for my newsletter so you won’t miss a thing!

– Diane


You CAN Read the Bible in a Year … Here’s How!