At around 2.5 to 3 years old children start asking questions, a lot of questions! Some questions are easy to answer and others not. What I know for sure is that the questions just keep on coming.
Asking questions can be a way for the child to find out more about the world and the environment around them, but it can also be a way for the child to express concern or worry.
We want the child to feel confident about asking questions and we want to be able to satisfy the child with our answers. First we need to determine what it is exactly the child wants to know. We want to give them just enough information that they can handle at the time, not too much, not too little. It's also really important to encourage hands-on and child-led learning!
I always try answer the questions:
- respectfully - we want to avoid dismissing the child's questions as the questions are very real and may be important to the child. We don't want to put the child off asking more questions. As annoying as it can be at times, asking questions is in an important part of the learning process.
- using real language - don't be afraid to be precise.
- in a timely manner - if possible. Children at this age generally want an answer immediately and may forget about it if we take too long to respond. If we can't answer the question straight away we must tell them, however we can take a moment to pause and try find the answer together.
- in a way that encourages observation and child-led learning - while a child of this age may not be able to use a reference book we can encourage the child to observe what is going on, which may lead to the answer. We can ask the child "what do you think...?", this can give us hints about what exactly the child wants to know, and it can help us assess how much the child already knows about the topic. We can ask further opened questions that may lead the child to the answer.
- by showing them (not telling them) the answer - if possible. This can lead to a more hands-on approach to learning. Perhaps we can show them in a book, or watch a You Tube video (this has worked well for explaining where the recycling goes). It depends on the questions but it's helpful if we provide a concrete answer that the child can see and feel.
We can make a list (the note section on the phone is useful) if we pick up on a theme, if the child is often asking questions about the same topic we can later follow up with some reading or further exploration of that topic, perhaps a site visit so the child can learn more!
Asking and answering questions can be valuable in terms of developing communication skills, it can be a nice bonding moment between parent and child. As much as we can, it's good to get on the child's level and take just a moment to be present and converse with the child.
I haven't covered here how to address big picture questions that a young child may ask about life, illness, religion or death. My children have asked questions about death and God but only once they were older and were able to form their own opinions.
If your child is around five years or older you might like to try recording the child's questions for child-led inquiry or Project-based Learning!