Why Kids Ask ‘Why’ – and How to Handle Their Questions

by Karen Chen
5 years ago

boy preschooler holding magnifying glass and smiling

When your toddler starts saying his first few words, he would have discovered a wide range of vocabulary that allowed him to put across questions like ‘where’, ‘why’ and ‘what’. The various ways of asking questions. 

Once your child starts stringing words together, questions from toddlers will be like, “why does Daddy need to work?” or “Why does the bird fly?”. Simple it may be, their questions can sometimes stump you. 

Questions do get more intense and complex, sometimes defiant as they grow older. The prime age of why kids ask why almost endlessly is when your child is between three to five years old.  Questions kids ask are part of growing and developing an independent mind. It is not to annoy you, but because your child is deeply rooted to want an explanation. It is a sign of curiosity and wanting to understand the world around them. 

Questions from toddlers

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan revealed that questions from toddlers are not merely trying to prolong conversation, they’re trying to get to the bottom of things and are motivated to actively seek explanations. They found that children seem to be more satisfied when they receive an explanatory answer than when they do not. When children received answers that weren’t explanations, they are more likely to repeat their original question to obtain an alternative explanation.

Such great hunger of curiosity and inquisitiveness of why kids ask ‘why’ is one that adults can model after in any learning process. 

Dealing with questions kids ask

A short journey in the car or a trip to the zoo can open your child to countless questions. He is constantly amazed and overwhelmed by the wonderful things around him. There is a strong desire to know and he needs to ask. Patience is most certainly the key to handling your child’s questions, and here are some ideas to help conquer questions kids ask

1. Avoid ‘I don’t know’

Replying ‘I don’t know’ is too much of a convenience. You may have subconsciously used it during busy moments, and your child does not take it convincingly. 

Make good effort to give the most accurate answers with good explanations. A genuine unknown reply is acceptable, and you don’t have to answer immediately. Let him know you’re able to seek for an answer together. 

Try this instead, “I’m not sure too, but let’s figure this out together.”  

2. Be sincere

It’s any parent’s honour to have their child flooding them with questions. They trust you completely, and think that you know everything. Keep up that anticipation by showing a keen interest in their questions; look into their eyes and use an appropriate tone when taking down their question.

3. Turn the question

Turning the question kids ask back to them can buy you some time in that thinking process. While you conceptualise your thoughts, you may ask your child what he thinks about it instead. Their answers and replies can lead you into fascinating views and perspectives that you may not have known about your child. Be open to conversations that lead on.

4. Expand the vocabulary

Take this opportunity to expand your child’s word bank. Don’t restrict on certain words because you think your child is too little to handle. 

Not that you should impart deep mathematical concepts, but try using words like ‘prey’ and ‘predator’ when talking about the animal kingdom. 

Or introduce words like ‘herbivore’ and ‘carnivore’ on top of using ‘plant eater’ and ‘meat eater’. With good explanations, examples and visualisations, your child will learn new words gradually. 

Read also: How to Encourage Kids to Share: An Age-by-age Guide

Answering questions from toddlers and kids may get you tongue tied at times. Think engagement and connection, rather than educational content. Take comfort that replying and engaging them are also their primary way of learning and receiving information. It enhances your child’s knowledge tremendously.

It’s not too soon before you realised they have outgrown this inquisitive phase of question- asking. Turning the roles around, your child will start feeding you with new knowledge and findings as you get busy with aging. They will be more in-the-know while you slow down in an ever-growing environment.