If you have young children, you know that soon after they get over saying the word no, their favorite word quickly becomes why. Kindergarteners can ask an average of four hundred questions a day. They’re innately curious, and while their curiosity is healthy, some of their questions can throw you for a loop.
They might ask: Why is water wet? Where does the sky end? What happens if a man turns into a dinosaur while he’s being arrested?
How should you respond to your children’s questions? How do you answer when you know they won’t be able to fully understand? Keep the following points in mind when your children ask questions.
Opportunities for Learning Activities
Many of the questions your children ask could lead to activities that you can do together. Even though they may not understand the explanation, they will enjoy, and probably remember, the activity that goes along with that explanation.
If they ask why the sky is blue, they may not understand about wavelengths, the color spectrum, and how light scatters in the atmosphere, but they would have a lot of fun creating rainbows with water hoses.
If they ask how airplanes stay up, they may not fully realize the significance of thrust and lift, but they might enjoy making paper airplanes and watching how the shape changes the flight.
While these activities won’t completely answer the question, they’ll form a valuable foundation. Later, you will be able to refer back to it when your children can understand.
How Much Your Children Want to Know
A question is almost always a request to begin learning, but how much do your children want to learn? They may accept a short, concise answer that gives them a basic understanding of the concept. Or they may try to understand more complicated concepts by asking even more questions. Giving them a long explanation they didn’t want might make your children think that learning is boring.
So, if your children ask how fish breathe under water, telling them that they have gills might be enough. But you may also find yourself explaining how gills filter oxygen out of the water.
Taking Questions Seriously
It’s easy to brush off a complicated question with an empty explanation. For example, when I was little, my family liked to answer questions with “it’s magic.” For us, it was a code for “I don’t know, and you’re too young to understand anyway.”
How might children’s impressions of learning change if, every time adults didn’t know the answer, they responded with “I don’t know, but why don’t we see if we can find out together?”
By taking their questions seriously, you may instill in your children a willingness to find out, even about the simplest of questions, and you may catch them using your methods for finding out on their own.
There will never be enough time in a day to thoroughly answer all four hundred questions your kindergartners might ask. But by taking time to answer some of your children’s questions, you can foster their curiosity and love of learning. What kinds of unexpected or surprising questions have your children asked? How did you answer them?