“Mommy, why do stars twinkle? Daddy, why do fingers look funny in a bathtub? Mommy, why do we need to go to bed? Daddy, why?…Why?..” Do you have a “why-attack” in your home? I love those questions. I think it exposes kids curiosity. I think it shows is their thirst for knowledge. I think it is fun to learn about things, I haven’t even thought of myself! And I think that by answering them, we show our kids how much we respect them, their desire to learn, how much we encourage getting to know about this world.
Nevertheless, whenever my kid asks another “why?” – I try not to answer. It’s easier to answer, but I strongly try to resist this (besides, my answer will just result in thousand more whys, without my kid even concentrating on answers). Why not? Why to withhold the answer? What do YOU think? Right, because I want him to try to come up with his own answer. Sometimes he already knows the answer. Sometimes he is really clueless, but guesses it correctly. Sometimes he doesn’t want to guess and just asks “why” to keep the conversation going.
So, I usually pay lots of attention to those “whys” and jump back with “What do you think?” He either gives his own logical explanation (which doesn’t always sound all that logical to me), or says that he doesn’t know. Now it’s my turn to insist on his “why”: “I would love to answer your question, and I definitely will, AFTER you give me your best hypothesis! It’s a good question – I’d love to know what you think!” Eventually I’ll hear some theory. Most often – surprisingly, quite close to the truth! At least I’ll try to find some truth and encourage it: “You are right, the stars do shine from far-far-away… and they do look like lights of the cars… ”
And I still don’t give out the answer. WHY NOT? I would love to encourage my kid’s autonomy. I would love to teach my kid self-reliance, foster his independence. I would love them to know, that they CAN (and should) do their research, they should learn to ENJOY it. I am here to help them, if they need it. I am here to join in this fun quest (I am curious too!). So I use this as an opportunity to dig in the encyclopedia (child’s version or real one), to open wikipedia.org online or search for some images and explanations on google.com. It turns out educational for both of us, and lots of fun.
If we have a knowledgeable friend – that’s a great resource! People usually feel very honored. It feels good to know more and to enlighten someone with your wisdom. So, I think that a good question wouldn’t “bother” other people, it would actually make them feel good about themselves.
Once we were calling our friend’s father, a policemen, to find out what happens with the guns that police takes away from criminals (I’ve never wondered about this in my entire life, and my husband wisely kept silent). It turned out to be exciting (though very surprising to our friend’s father).
Other materials that we found useful:
“Why?: The Best Ever Question and Answer Book About Nature, Science, and the World Around You by Catherine Ripley addresses many of the common “whys”. All of our family enjoyed it a great deal – I never really new, why soap is good for washing, why stars twinkle, and many-many others. The book has sections for common inside our homes questions, the outside questions, for the supermarket, for the night-routine questions… The illustrations are cute and bright, the answers are short and simple, easy to understand, but still complete and engaging. We would definitely recommend it!