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Learning The Learning Process: What Does Asking Your Child Questions Do?

Updated: Jan 25

Why do I have to go to bed now? Why is the sky blue? Why is the moon following me? Why do we have to eat? Why aren’t there four parents to every one child?

You must have heard these types of questions from your child. And likely just when you are the most exhausted and reallyyyyyyyy need them to nap or eat. But even though it can be exasperating and kind of impossible to answer all these questions, it’s really important to engage in their process of discovery and learning. That is what they’re doing when they ask seemingly uhh... absurd questions. And they need a partner in that process because they are too young to find out for themselves (pro tip: refrain from “let’s google it!”).

How do you become a partner in that process? By asking weird questions with them! I know, I know, it’s much easier to give an answer like:

  • You have to go to bed now because I said so!

  • I don’t know! So let’s drop it.

But this means that the exciting, essential journey they are trying to embark on just ended. They were inviting you to be wondrous and curious and you’ve just made them land with a thud in the everyday world of dirty dishes and diapers. As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. They are looking to you for answers, but more importantly, they are looking to you to show them the process of finding answers.

Because, sometimes, just giving answers deprives them of:

  • Finding out for themselves.

  • Learning the process of exploration and experimentation.

  • Having a really cool conversation with you!

  • Looking at the world inquisitively.

  • Engaging with their environment actively and not passively.

The best thing to do when embarking on the journey they are inviting you to is also a tourist in that unknown land. What does this mean when you are discovering something new with your child? Try these responses to those questions above:

  • I don’t know, let’s find out.

  • Why do you think the sky is blue?

  • What do you think happens when you go to bed?

  • Why do you think the moon is following you?

These are called “open-ended” questions. They are designed to continue down the road of discovery instead of a hard and fast answer that paints the process of learning just a little duller and doesn’t allow for more questions. They’re also designed to:

  • Make your child stop and actually think about their question.

  • Tell you what they already know.

  • Allow for more questions to be asked and different answers to be arrived at.

  • Allow your child to get to know themselves.

  • Help your child be independent and active in their learning.

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