TIPS FOR PARENTS - USEFUL ANSWERS FOR CURIOUS CHILDREN
Once children are three or four years old their curiosity
comes out in lots of questions, as well as wanting to get their hands on
anything interesting. Sometimes, you will long for a bit of peace, but
it is important to find that extra patience.
Your child’s searching questions are a window onto their
thinking and you will make a difference to how they find out about their
world. Childhood can be such an exciting time because young girls and
boys are discovering what we take for granted. You can join in the
wonder of your child’s first sight of falling snowflakes. Young
children are fascinated by the sight of rainwater rushing along the
gutter. Their questions may emerge right then or at a later time – and
where exactly does the water go after it hurtles down the drain?
Ideally, you reply to your children’s questions at the
time they ask.
Listen carefully and answer with a couple of
sentences. Pause, or say, ‘Does that answer your question?’
Children let you know if they are still curious or
puzzled. Your answer may also lead to another question from them.
Sometimes – not always – you can put the question
back to your child. You might say, ‘What do you think?’ or ‘Have you
got any ideas?’
Some quirky questions from fours and fives really
invite your comment of, ‘What set you wondering about that?’ or
‘That’s such a good question. I’ve never thought about how worms
It is alright to admit that you’re not sure about how
spiders build webs. You can start with, ‘I think that… But,
sometimes your honest answer is, ‘I really don’t know exactly how
the lights work’. But you follow with, ‘I’ve got a good idea how we
can find out….’
You can look together at information and picture books –
those you have at home but also go to the library together. You can ask
someone else – family or friend – who knows more. Let your child
determine how much ‘research’ is enough for now.
Older children need to learn steadily how to search
safely on the internet. You should always be with your young child at
the computer screen – and it is preferable that you’ve already found a
good information site or images.
Sometimes the best answer to a practical question is to
do something to find out what happens when….. Any ‘home experiments’
obviously need your adult awareness of safety, as well as consideration
for living creatures.
you really can’t answer right now and your child will understand, so
long as you give a simple explanation.
Perhaps you need to say, ‘Let me just finish
tightening this screw, then I’m all yours.’
Or you would rather not explain the finer details of
‘pee and poo’ in front of a supermarket queue of strangers. Say
something like, ‘That question deserves a good answer. We’re going
to have a proper conversation as soon as we’ve bought our food.’
Keep your promise.
When you feel rushed or embarrassed, it’s tempting to
give any old answer just to end that conversation. The moment need
not be lost, so long as you get back to your child very soon.
You might admit later that day, ‘I didn’t give you a
very good answer to your question about… Can I have another go now?’
Sometimes, children’s questions simmer for a while in
their head before they pop out.
You have a good opportunity to say, ‘I can tell
you’ve been thinking about that lovely rainbow we saw’ – then start
to answer the actual question.
You may notice that children return to a big area of
knowledge, like the whole business of babies, at their own pace and
over a matter of weeks, or even months.
Sometimes it is these long-running series that give
you a good reason to say in your turn, ‘I’ve been wondering about…’
Some questions, even from children younger than five
years of age, touch on the really big issues. A good rule of thumb is
that, if children are able to ask this question, then they deserve an
Some under fives do ask the big question about what
happens when people die. Be ready to say, ‘In this family, we
believe that..’ or ‘Some
people believe that..’
It is impossible to shield young children from every
distressing news item. Keep it simple and keep it honest – sometimes
you have to admit that bad things happen in this world.
Finally, think carefully about telling children
anything that is actually untrue – even when you feel you have a
good reason. You want your child to trust you.
Young children are at the beginning of a long learning
journey; there is so much they do not know. They need to be keen to find
out and confident that they can learn. In family life you can help your
son or daughter to feel undaunted by the fact that, at the moment, they
do not know an answer, are puzzled or very confused. Children deserve
some straight answers to their questions, but also your genuine
enthusiasm for finding out with them. It’s not helpful when parents
believe they should always be the ‘expert adult’. You can
help children experience comfortably that it’s alright to be wrong.
Sometimes that’s the only way to find
the turning towards the right answer.
HALF OF PARENTS STUMPED BY PRESCHOOL PROBES
do fish drink? what do ants eat? and why is the sea salty? are just some
of the questions parents would struggle to answer, it was revealed
A survey of mums and dads reveals that 52 per cent often
find it difficult to answer searching questions from their young
And four in 10 adults admit to feeling inadequate when
faced with a question from their child when they don’t know the answer.
Interestingly, when faced with a question they can’t
answer, almost a quarter of parents admit to making something up, whilst
another 24% admit they try to distract their child with something else
to avoid the question altogether.
The poll of 3,000 parents was commissioned by Classic
Media to mark the launch of Guess with Jess, a brand new
children’s television programme that tackles some of the more common
science and nature based questions posed by 2-5 year olds everywhere.
It revealed that a third of mums and dads don’t know how
to describe how rain is made, whilst 18 per cent get muddled when trying
to explain where babies come from.
Fifteen per cent of adults find it hard to say why girls
and boys are different, and a further 15 per cent have no idea what ants
Other nature based questions which leave parents stumped
include what do fish drink? how do bees make honey? and how do spiders
Science questions such as what makes thunder, what makes
a rainbow and how do planes fly in the sky pose a big challenge to
Jennie Lindon, psychologist and consultant to the show,
comments: “Inquisitive young children can ask their parents some tough
questions. Even what appear to be simple questions can leave you feeling
‘It is worrying to hear that 40% of the parents in the
survey felt inadequate to answer their child’s questions. It is
exciting when children become really curious about the world around them
and ask those searching questions. We want parents to feel confident and
part of that discovery.”
More than a third of parents polled say they feel very
anxious when they can’t answer their child’s questions, and 26 per cent
say they wish their child asked less questions.
But 37 per cent of these parents say they do try and
research answers to difficult questions on the internet so they are
better prepared next time round.
Fifteen per cent will take their child to a library if
they are particularly interested in a subject, and 12 per cent would buy
them a book about the subject so they can learn more.
Jennie Lindon continued: “The key is to embrace your
child’s curiosity and to coax them towards figuring out some answers for
themselves. You can give gentle pointers rather than always providing
“This takes the pressure off Mums and Dads to find tricky
answers on the spot. But just as important you’re helping your children
with the tools for thinking. They need to learn for themselves, through
exploring and trying out different possible answers and solutions.
“Guess with Jess obviously can’t answer all the weird and
wonderful questions children ask their parents. But it does address
intriguing questions about how caterpillars turn into butterflies, why
spiders build webs and how puddles disappear.
“Most importantly, this new programme shows clearly how
learning is a process. Young viewers, watching with their parents, will
see that learning is as much about being wrong as being right. Hopefully
this will put some of those worries to rest if parents are anxious.”
is a brand new children’s television programme launched on CBeebies at
9.45am in early November.
The survey was commissioned by Classic Media and
conducted by One Poll
TOP 20 QUESTIONS PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN WOULD STRUGGLE
How does it rain?
Where did I come from?
How are girls and boys
What do ants eat?
Where does the wind come
Where does God live?
Why is the sea salty?
What makes thunder?
What makes a rainbow?
What do fish drink?
Why can’t I remember
What is heaven?
How do spiders build
Why is the sky blue?
How does a man get
inside the TV?
Why do I have to go to
bed when it’s not dark?
How do bees make honey?
Why can planes fly in
How does Father
Christmas get down the chimney?
How are babies made?