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Practicing Wait Time at Home: START HERE

October 4, 2022

WAIT TIME: PART III — Little + Big Kids, Tweens, Teens

Once your child can hold a conversation with you, you can start asking fun questions to practice wait time.  Unlike with babies and younger toddlers, once your child is capable of really conversing, I don’t suggest starting to practice wait time while reading, especially if it’s not something you’re used to. My #1 way to start practicing wait time with little kids, big kids, tweens, and teens is with “would you rather” questions.


I love these questions! And, honestly, they help build confidence in a low-risk way. I suggest starting with these questions because your child doesn’t have to come up with an answer out of thin air, which can be scary. 

Personally, I’ve always hated “favorite” questions. I never had the confidence (and in some cases, I still trick myself into thinking I don’t!) to speak up and say that my favorite song in that moment was something too popular, or maybe not popular enough. When someone asks my favorite anything, I still immediately forget the names of everything in that category and panic thinking of something to say that I’ll immediately regret and think about three nights later as I’m trying to go to sleep. Everyone is not me, but a lot of people (of all ages!) are. 

But here’s something I know: we have to allow our children to practice sharing their opinions with us, without judgment, and without feeling like they have to hold onto their same answer forever. 

10 starter questions:

There are so many questions out there on the Internet, in your brain, and in your children’s brains, but here are ten to get you started.

  1. Would you rather be a hippo in the wild or a monkey in the zoo? 
  1. Would you rather be always cold or always hot? 
  1. Would you rather eat peanut butter every day for the rest of your life or never taste anything sweet ever again? 
  1. Would you rather stay up late (and have to sleep in) or wake up early (and have to go to bed early)?
  1. Would you rather always smell badly, or always have food in your teeth?
  1. Would you rather fly or be invisible?
  1. Would you rather wake up one morning with a giraffe’s neck or an elephant’s trunk?
  1. Would you rather have an itch you can’t scratch or have a toothache? 
  1. Would you rather never lose a sock again or find a dollar on the street every day?
  1. Would you rather live in a glass house, or in a house with no windows?

Some guidelines for practicing wait time this way:

Most importantly, everyone must choose an answer. There is no in between.  There is also no right or wrong. Sometimes, it can be helpful to remind children that they are making this choice for this moment, and if you ask the question tomorrow, they are allowed to have a new answer! So often, children think that their answer (to anything!) is going to have to be tattooed on their forehead and they can never change it again. Reminding them that opinions can and will (and often should!) change is incredibly important. 

Our goal is to help our children build the confidence they need to comfortably participate in discussion and grow their brains in any setting – be it in a classroom, at a dinner table, on the bus, in a friend’s car, or decades down the road on a conference call. 

At first, you may not want to  ask anyone to defend their answers. But defending your answers can create really fun conversations when everyone has different ideas. Again, it’s a safe way to practice offering and looking at different sides of a debate.  

Practicing Wait Time Scripts + Tips, by age:

Little kids: 

“We are going to play a game where I ask some silly questions and then we all share our own answers. After I ask the question, I’ll set a timer, and when the timer goes off, we will all share our answers! This way, everyone has plenty of time to think. If you need more time to think after the timer goes off, just let me know, and we can add a little more time for the next question.”

Big kids and tweens:

For your bigger kids and tweens, start by asking them if they have ever played this game before, and if they have a hard time answering the questions or not. “Does it make you nervous to answer them? Sometimes I get nervous answering questions, but the fun things about these are that there is NO right answer, and our answers are allowed to change.”


In addition to the questions above for big kids and tweens, ask your teen what makes a good “Would You Rather?” and talk about how they make their decisions. Ask them if they have a hard time with these questions in front of other people, and if they aren’t a fan of them, why they don’t like them. If you and your teen aren’t used to silence, say, “I’m going to give us both some time to think about this one. We can be comfortable in the silence!”

All ages:

  • Music can be helpful during wait time! 
  • Have your child ask you a question (either that they make up or find), and then model think time for them. This may look like you thinking our loud, or it may just be you saying, “I’m going to take a minute to think about this one!”


Another reason  I love “would you rather” questions is that they put adults and kids on  a level playing field. The adult doesn’t “know” the answer that the child is trying to guess.  This isn’t a  “gotcha” game. 

As always, send an email to hello@readingandwritingmatters with questions and/or schedule a family consultation for comprehensive, tailored support for your family.

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