Updated: Jan 12
What is wait time?
It's giving children an extended period of time to answer your question or do something you've asked of them.
For some children they may take a little longer to process what they hear and translate this into a response, for some they may need the time to think about what answer they wish to give (especially if a child fears making mistakes) and for others they may need the time to put their ideas into words, after all young children are still learning English.
This can feel really uncomfortable for us as adults. You will often notice adults ask children a question (such as What colour is this?) quickly followed by the question again worded slightly differently (Is this a blue colour?) or the answer (It is green).
When we quickly repeat our questions, reword them or answer the questions for children we build in the expectation that they do not need to answer the question especially when it takes time to think about the answer as it will be done for them. Children aren't doing this to be lazy but because they don't think they are expected to provide the answer. If they are not used to having wait time you may have to wait for even longer before they answer while they realise that you are still waiting and won't be providing the answer.
Take a little time to stand back and watch how others interact with your children. See if you can count the seconds between the end of the question asked and the next thing the adult says. Once you become more aware of it, it might surprise you what questions your children can answer when given enough time or how little time we, as adults, give them.
Wait until you feel the urge to say something and then wait a little longer. Try to keep eye contact to show you are engaged and looking forward to their answer.
If they have not responded after an extended period, you could ask them if they would like more time to think or try asking again.