The concept of answering questions can seem like a no brainer. Of course, you should answer your littles’ questions, so they learn new things. But what about the “why” questions that seem nonsensical, obvious, and often endless?
I know from first-hand experience that when you are tired, busy, stressed, the endless queries can be frustrating. You might start to consider duct tape as a viable option. Or you pray for the day when they can use a computer solo.
When my oldest was four, he went through a question stage. I swear, he stayed up all night thinking of questions to ask. “Why do snakes have fangs? How can it be cold when the sun is out? Why aren’t there dinosaurs anymore? Why is blood called blood?”
It was fun to see his creativity and see his mind trying to understand the world around him. But it was also really time consuming and very frustrating to answer endless rounds of questions. “What would happen if I peed in my car seat?” “How would you clean the seat?” “What if it smells bad after?” I would roll my eyes and become frustrated at the seemingly endless volley of random questions that I didn’t find particularly important.
Many of the questions I did not know the answers to, such as “Why do snakes have fangs?”
It always seemed as if the endless questions came when we were in the car and other places that I could not look up answers. To end the frustration and try to foster questions, imagination, and my littles finding some of the answers on their own, we came up with these ideas.
Ideas to Encourage Questions, Keep Sanity, and Foster Learning:
Set Limits on the Number Questions.
When I am tired, frustrated, in a bad mood, etc., we agree on a set number of questions, such as two or five that I will answer. This really helps me not to snap or growl while answering. In turn, this encourages questions because they know I will always answer some. Sometimes the questions help me out of a bad mood, and I answer more than the agreed number. Sometimes.
Research the Questions with the Little if Possible.
I am a historian, so research is a good part of my life. We use my computer and put the question into Google or Google Scholar to see what it pulls up. Often, we find a plethora of articles, videos, etc. to peruse and have fun learning about something new. I have hope that will also help them with research in the future.
Make a list of Questions to Research.
The littles do have some interesting questions that I have no knowledge about. When that happens and we do not have access to a computer or such to find an answer, we add it to our list of things to research. I currently write it or record it into my phone when driving. This fosters more questions later and demonstrates you value their questions.
Make an Educated Guess.
If you are not sure of an answer, but have an idea that might be right, offer it. I always tell them before that I am not entirely sure if I am right. Then I will offer an answer and explain why I think I am right. My oldest loves fall weather. He asked me why the leaves fall off before winter. I told him I thought it was so the trees did not need as much food or water in the winter. It helps some trees survive harsh weather. We looked it up later to see if my guess was correct. This helps them see the process of making an educated guess and often reinforces that mom does not know everything.
Be Silly or Make up Answers.
If I do not know an answer or in a silly mood, I will ask if they want me to make up a silly answer. My youngest is really into dinosaurs and wanted to know if dinosaurs danced. My response was that of course they danced. I reminded him of his dinosaur books where they danced. We then tried to remember the dance moves and made up our own. It always makes us laugh and be creative.
This also encourages them to ask each other questions and make up their own silly answers. This often lets mom off the hook.
The biggest takeaway is to consider their needs and yours. Do not be afraid to set limits to save your sanity. Do not dismiss their questions as they someday will stop asking. Give each other grace and consider what are your favorite questions to answer?