Can I have a snack? What sound does a giraffe make? Where is China? How do you get there? When are we going to Grandma’s? Can I have a snack? What is for supper? Why do we have to eat that? When can I be done with supper? Why are peas green? Who really likes peas anyway? Why are frogs slippery? Can I have a snack? Why do grown-ups make the rules? Can I have a snack? WHY DO KIDS ASK SO MANY QUESTIONS?
Most children go through a phase or multiple phases in which they ask the caring adults around them many, many questions. At some point, even the most patient parent may have the urge to respond with, “Because I said so!” However, it benefits kids and grown-ups alike to remember that asking questions is a good thing. Children need to learn and develop an understanding of the world and the barrage of who, what, where, when, why and how is one of the ways that they gather knowledge.
Encourage the questions! That’s right. I said it. Tell children that asking questions is a good thing and give them the body language and tone to agree with your statement. This may seem silly now but when your sixth grader has the courage to ask the math teacher for help when they are stuck, your early encouragement will pay off. Choose toys and activities that promote questions such as art, blocks and dramatic play.
Answer your child’s questions in ways that encourage the child to construct their own understanding. Respond to questions with more questions. “Why do you think that would be?” “Do you remember when I said we would go? Let’s look at the calendar together to figure out how many more days it will be.” “Here are three rules that help me decide when you can have a snack. Now that you know the rules, what do you think my answer will probably be?” “I don’t know why frogs feel slippery. Let’s stop at the library later this week and see if there is a book that can tell us.”
Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know an answer and let your child know that wondering is a great way to learn more, even if the answer never comes. I often tell my daughters, “You have a great brain. Let’s put it to work!” As I often say, the best way to teach your child something is by example. When you find yourself working to answer a question in life, show your child what you are doing. When you use Google to find out how long to boil an egg or pick your Mother-in-Law’s brain for the best way to get grass stains out of little jeans, tell your child what you are doing so that they realize that questions are good and wondering is great.
Encourage curiosity. This is a great trait in children and one that we must embrace. Most of the people who change our world for the better are curious people. I suspect that Einstein, Edison, Curie and thousands of others began their work with a question and ended it with a discovery.
Build your child’s love of learning, self-esteem, creativity and of course curiosity. Teach them that the answer is not always as important as the question.
Grow confident and happy people who lay in the grass trying to determine how crickets chirp and butterfly wings take flight so effortlessly.