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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 breathe.’
  • 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.    

Occasionally 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 answer.

  • 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.


Cute Fish avatarWhat 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 yesterday. 

A survey of mums and dads reveals that 52 per cent often find it difficult to answer searching questions from their young children. 

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 eat. 

Other nature based questions which leave parents stumped include what do fish drink? how do bees make honey? and how do spiders build webs? 

Science questions such as what makes thunder, what makes a rainbow and how do planes fly in the sky pose a big challenge to uncertain parents. 

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 stumped. 

‘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 the answer. 

“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.” 

Guess With Jess 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


1.      How does it rain?

2.      Where did I come from?

3.      How are girls and boys different?

4.      What do ants eat?

rainbow5.      Where does the wind come from?

6.      Where does God live?

7.      Why is the sea salty?

8.      What makes thunder?

9.      What makes a rainbow?

10.   What do fish drink?

11.   Why can’t I remember being born?

12.   What is heaven?

13.   How do spiders build webs?

14.   Why is the sky blue?

15.   How does a man get inside the TV?

16.   Why do I have to go to bed when it’s not dark?

17.   How do bees make honey?

18.   Why can planes fly in the sky?

19.   How does Father Christmas get down the chimney?

20.   How are babies made?


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