While, contrary to common memes, the average 4-year-old probably does NOT ask 437 questions every day (it’s mathematically impossible), there’s a reason why people believe this myth: because toddlers and preschoolers can be absolutely relentless in their curiosity. It makes perfect sense that someone who’s quite new to the world wants to know as much as they can about it. The main question is: what do you do about it?
Some child development experts, like pediatrician and author Dr. Greene, maintain that kids don’t necessarily mean “why?” when they ask “why?”: instead, they say that kids mean something more like “That’s interesting to me. Let’s talk about that together. Tell me more, please?” His recommendation is to just open up a conversation: given that explaining that, for instance, why the sky is blue, requires a lot of scientific explanation about how light works, it might be better to just talk about related phenomena that are easier for them to understand.
The research backs up Dr. Greene’s assertion to some degree: two studies at the University of Hawai’i indicated that kids are more satisfied when they get an explanatory answer. This may not stop the “why?” process, but they’re less likely to ask you the same question again, at least.
Along with simply making conversation and exploring the world, your child may be asking endless questions in order to test boundaries, which is natural toddler behavior. Under those circumstances, you may want to take Magda Pescenye’s advice at AskMoxie: she suggests asking your child “What do you think?” and waiting for a response. This gives them excellent practice in the art of conversational give-and-take – and they may come up with some really amusing answers!
One way or another, one of the reasons why all of those questions can be so frustrating is because most of us can’t answer every single one of them. So, arming yourself with some good sources of information will help you feel more confident, even if your kid doesn’t accept your explanation! In the interest of making your life easier (it’s our mission!), here are some quick resources to help you out.
- The five most frequently asked science questions
- Nine common questions about human interaction and the social world
- The really tough ones (some of this is a little PG-rated!)
- And, for some fun info to share and explore (since you’re curious about things too, right?): Today I Found Out