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Question time ... starter for 10


That famous phrase is what they say in University Challenge, the tv program. Not that I have watched it much, but when I did, I got one answer right, I was very proud of myself by the way. But it is also what it feels like when you toddler starts to think and question their world. Quick fire rounds , surprising insightful and some times hard questions. Out of the blue observations, and the ever changing tangent question. One minute it is counting toes and next we are on to why is it raining !


Following on from my blog about chatting and how its up to us to encourage our kids to speak up and out and to teach them the right sounds to make to be heard. This blog is about our attitudes and forming theirs, when they do have the act of verbal interaction conquered and we long for the days of quiet contemplation. The million and one questions that seem to spill out at a hundred miles and hour and start 10 secs after they have opened their eyes in the morning and we have barely opened ours !


We, as the Early Childhood Educators in this setting ( fancy way of saying parent or functioning adult ) need to have a think about a few things too when this phase kicks in. I have found firstly I need to gauge her conversation. Like when she is in the back of car , babbling about what she sees out the window, is there a question in there? Or can I just be a supportive role and encourage her observations, 'yes love, there are some sheep , what do they say ?' Etc, etc. One give away, I have found is there is a title attached to a question, usually Mummy said 6 times to help me determine the validity of the request. Then I know she is wanting my attention and I can respond.


Which leads me to a two part question you need to ask yourself . How do I want to handle said queries and questions. On a need to know basis and how honest am I going to be with my understanding of question and answering ? Im not saying lie to your kids, but with wee ones it's ok to keep it simple. They will need a fuller answer as they get older and will demand one that fills their thirst for knowledge. You will get why but why on each layer of question till they have deemed your reply satisfactory. But while they are little you can keep your answers little too. You are teaching them on a level they can comprehend. You will lose them and yourself in , in-depth answers to their questions , like where the water goes when it rains? One I got myself the other day when she asked why was there a plug hole in the street gushing with rain water. At two yrs old she didn't need a complex infrastructure of our local drainage systems and water treatment options. Just a , its called a drain and just like the bath plug hole the water runs away when we are finished with it.


When I say how honest are we going to be of our understanding of their question, I mean there are and will be times that you cant answer, you're driving , doing something, in conversation yourself and it's ok to maybe not hear them. Not ignore , just use selective hearing and answering. I mean they do that to us enough in the future. I swear my teens are only programmed to hear words that benefit them. Seem allergic to please clean up ! Perfect example is the ice-cream truck , Children learn very quickly what it is and its jingle. I heard of parents saying the music means that its run out of ice-cream. We all have heard them in our lives, only to find out they were complete poppycock in our later years. Crusts make your hair go curly and eating carrots allows you to see in the dark ! You can insert any porkies your parents told here { } and either choose to continue the old wives tales for your own benefit and piece of mind or rebel and decided to be open and honest with your wee ones at your peril. But you need to make a pre-determined choice as you need to stick to it, they will call you out. Of course you can decided on a case by case basis. Full disclosure on some things, white lies on others. There are no judgements on which way you go with your answers.


Another factor in asked and answered is, sometimes there is no time or space to engage. But how to convey that to little ones, to stop the insistent questions ( yes just one said over and over ). I have a system which I have for my wee ones. ( as above wears off as they get older it seems ) I acknowledge that she is speaking to me, be it eye contact , or I hear you , or I have found if possible to touch her to say physically I hear you but I cant commit immediately. Then when I can I will ask her to say excuse me followed by her question . Or get on to the floor at her height and ask her what she needs. Then she will take a breathe and we are off..... Why, what, when , who and how is this that and the other happening, doing, coming, going ... you name it.


As to the topic of need to know and honest reply, it's not just about keeping it simple , it can also be about what they need to know at their age and what they don't. We are starting potty training soon. I need to think about how I want to tackle her questions. Topics of body , what she is doing, names do we assign to things. Wee ones tend to blurt words they have learnt, out in weird and wonderful places so be ready that if you have named body parts they will be yelled in the middle of the high street. Like a poo is coming out of my bottom Mummy !


This is all entry level stuff and you figure a no brainer , but you do need to lay your foundation in which to build upon. The questions get more rapid and delving, the answers need to be kept up to scratch as you get it wrong, they will find out. I know having raised three boys to teens ( so far ) that just like doing their homework some nights , I was just about covering general knowledge and had to wing it sometimes. But I also adopted the attitude , for their benefit also if I did not know the answer to some things, that , A- that was ok and B- we would find out together. Gone are the days of library books catalogue cards and projects by Encyclopaedia Britannia. Knowledge is at the tip of our finger tips and immediate depending on wifi coverage. Look it up together or tell them you will go find out and make sure you get back to them. It's a wonderful learning model for them in years to come.


We are only at the start of a wonderful stream of learning and questioning with our toddlers. I love the quizzing, the thirst of knowledge and interrogation by her about her world. I am happy to answer the best I can and in a way for her to grasp, but also understanding the art of learning and communication. I cant answer everything all the time but I will do my best. So ask away....



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