Monday, December 3, 2012

"Why?" The Question That Opens Opportunities

Children are experts on asking “Why” and have a natural curiosity. Although sometimes frustrating, “why” questions are vital for stretching and growing. Encouraging questions is an excellent way to promote exploration and understanding.

Your response to the question should be straightforward and simple. Two and three-year olds constantly ask questions because they are beginning to understand logic and reasoning. They are starting to realize that concepts are connected. When you're tired, it's time to go to sleep; when the sky is dark it means it's nighttime. Toddlers and preschoolers are looking for answers that make sense to them not a dissertation on the theme. Keeping your responses clear and to the point is helpful.

You don’t need to have all the answers. If you don’t know the answer to the question then you have a wonderful opportunity to work together to investigate using books, DVDs or the internet as resources. A trip to the children’s library to do research is a great activity that can lead to a lifetime of exploration.

Often asking children what they know about the subject can help you formulate the information to share with them. Turning the question back to them can offer greater insight into their thinking process. You might just be amazed! Then you have an idea of what you can bring to the conversation.

Sometimes our interpretation about what a child is asking is off-base. Asking them to give you more information helps to identify what they truly would like to know about. For example the question, “Where did I come from?” may not be what you think it is. The child might be looking for “Was I born in Minnesota or Wisconsin?” an entirely different topic.

Don’t wait for the child to quiz you, take advantage of opportunities to ask them questions. If you notice a child has an interest on a particular subject, you can take the initiative to ask probing questions. Plan projects that revolve around their interest and seek out books, DVDs or websites that have more to offer on the subject. As you are enjoying a walk or playing at the park or any other daily activity there are many opportunities to open up conversations and ask questions. Enjoy those teachable moments!
“Why?” is THE question to get further information, gain understanding and give us a sense of how all the pieces fit together. It doesn’t need to lead to frustration. Remember next time you hear “Why is my goldfish gold?” get excited about the prospect of having a dynamic exploration of the subject.

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