Why do children ask so many questions?
Children ask a lot of questions.
I remember reading a few years ago a funny post that said that the average four year old asks 437 questions in a day. Yes, it's an exaggeration. Or is it?
Why do children ask so many questions? And what about the biggest question of all? WHY?
Why do children's questions bug us so much?
I often hear educators and parents say "they just ask too many questions", or see them becoming frustrated when they hear "why?" for the 73rd time in the space of two hours.
I think there are two main reasons why children's questioning can get on our nerves:
- We're tired. Oh, so tired. Perhaps your infant woke up four times last night and the question "why?" feels like something you just can't comprehend. Or perhaps, you've had a long day and need an afternoon nap!
- We don't always know the answers to children's questions (and I don't think we need to either), and for some of us, that can feel a little unsettling.
Why asking questions is a good thing
Warren Berger, the author of "A more Beautiful Question" says children ask around 40 000 questions between the ages of two and five years (good news for us in the early childhood sector hey?!) Berger goes on to say that over the next few years - as children start school - the number of questions they ask declines.
I actually find this a little sad. Is it that the children know suddenly know everything and no longer have the need to ask? Or is it that they have learned that their questions often go unheard when they move into an environment (like school) where the ratio of children to adults differs greatly to what we experience in the early childhood sector?
We want human beings to be knowledgeable and skilled - but we don't just suddenly arrive at that place. Think about something you have learned or mastered recently. How many questions did you need to ask? (even if you "Googled it", as has become more common than asking an actual human!)
Asking questions is how we grow our understanding of people, places and things, of ways of doing and knowing and being. Asking questions is key to evolution.
Embracing the questions
Yes, it can be exhausting at times, but we want to encourage that inherent curiosity that children have, to continue - we don't want to squash it. Does it mean that we need to answer every question that they have? Nope. Sometimes it's as simple as acknowledging that they have a question. Or it could lead to some research and collaborative investigation. In fact - some of my favourite memories of working with children are the questions that led to projects and discoveries. Who needs a program planned months in advance (the answer is no-one!) when children ask questions that spark wonder and curiosity and investigation and exploration?!
When a child asks "Why is the sky blue?" they aren't necessarily looking for the scientific explanation (although some children will love that), and it can be interesting to say "I'm not sure - why do you think?"
We can also model curiosity. Rather than asking "what was your favourite thing to do today?" we might ask "what questions did you ask today?"
What questions can you ask today?
Is there something you want to know more about? or understand better? What makes you curious?
A quote from one our favourite thinkers (who we reference a lot in our Educational Leader Membership!)