Very soon after our children learn to have basic conversations, they start asking questions, often using the word “why.” It seems that the only thing running through their minds is inquiries about the world around them. When your child asks “why?“ 94 times a day, you’re likely to get frustrated, but truthfully, this is how they learn about the world and their place in it.
Sometimes these questions can startle us when they get a bit scientific or philosophical. Naturally, we don’t have all the answers. As our children get older, questions continue to be an issue in their lives, but this time, it’s our questions that they seem to never want to answer.
In this article, we humbly suggest answers to some of your children’s most burning questions. To learn more about their fascinating inner worlds, we offer questions you can ask them. Finally, we provide some questions you can ask your older kids to get them talking about their day.
Probably those that start with "why." Children are naturally curious – they are always hunting for the root cause of every intriguing phenomenon they see. Keep in mind that our adult definition of an exciting phenomenon is not always in line with what children think is exciting.
They use “why” both as a primary question and as a follow-up. The beauty of asking why is that it is an open-ended question, so it can lead to a deep dialogue. At the same time, it could also lead to a full stop in a conversation if you reply with an honest “I don’t know, let me get back to you on that one.“
Here are some common whys you may have heard from your kids - with short, concise answers. Some of these questions are likely to come up at a very tender age, while others may appear in elementary school.
Why is the sky blue?
That is the color of the light in the air. At sunrise and sunset, the light scatters, and you can see more colors, much like we can create a rainbow with a garden hose.
Why does it rain?
Water that evaporates from the oceans condenses in the skies, forming clouds. When enough water has accumulated, it becomes too heavy and falls. You’ve seen condensation before when a cold can of soda “sweats” on a humid summer day.
Where do babies come from?
The answer to this question changes according to age. We recommend stepping beyond shame and using scientific terms. As this is a complicated biological process, spare the details and try to be as clear as possible.
Why are there no more dinosaurs?
This one is likely to come up at a young age. You can tell them about the asteroid, and if they express fear, reassure them that our ozone layer can protect us and that dinosaurs have gone extinct about 65 million years ago.
Where does water come from?
Water comes from the ocean, rivers, lakes, and springs. A deeper, more elaborate answer for scientifically-minded kids can expand on the theory that space comets brought water to the earth when it was still a young planet.
What happens when you die?
The answer depends on your beliefs. We suggest contemplating your answer to this question in your free time, so it doesn’t catch you off guard. If your children are older, you can explore interviews with people who have had near-death experiences.
Are we rich? OR Are we poor?
This question may arise around elementary school age. The answer, of course, will depend on your circumstances, but you might want to think carefully about the added value you can give your children when answering this question. You can reassure them that you can provide all their basic needs, but you may not have the resources to buy everything. Then again, we don’t need to own everything. You can take this question as an opportunity to teach your children about being humble and not bragging about what you have. Reinforce the notion that money doesn’t reflect a person's value.
Why don’t we show our private parts in public?
Apart from our reproductive organs, our body is made for things we can do in public, like laughing together, playing, sculpting Play-Doh, and dancing. Our private parts are made for things we do in private, like going to the bathroom. They belong to no one else but ourselves. Being curious about these parts of your body is natural. However, we only show them to the people we trust the most, like mommy and daddy, and occasionally, the doctor. No one can see or touch your private parts, and if such a thing ever happens, tell mommy and daddy.
Why do people get sick?
The answer to this question can be as simple or elaborate as you choose. Viruses and bacteria are most likely to make us sick. Thankfully, we have doctors and medicines that rid us of disease.
Why can’t I stay up as late as you?
You’ve been running around all day, and your body needs rest. But more importantly, your developing brain needs time to recharge. This can only happen in your sleep. Bonus: you get taller when you get enough sleep!
Why do I have to go to school?
Many skills you will need to succeed in the world are taught at school. The primary skills are reading, writing, and math, but when you are sent to school, you also learn to function as part of society and navigate relationships with your teachers and fellow students.
Why do I have to do homework?
Your teachers have limited time they can spend individually with each student. They do their part in class, and you do your part of the learning by yourself via homework. In your practice at home, you can reinforce what you studied in class, and if questions arise at home, you can bring them up in the next class – never be ashamed to ask questions!
What do I do if I am being bullied?
If the threat is not physical, you can try and ignore the bully and keep close to your friends. We would also encourage you to seek guidance from a counselor. When your child opens up about being bullied, this is a sign of deep trust in you. Be gentle with them and avoid expressing distress about the matter in front of them.
Questions for toddlers
- If you had to give everyone in the family brand-new names, what would they be?
- What makes you happy?
- If you could do anything right now, what would you do?
- What would you do with your pet dragon if you had one?
- What is the superpower you wish you had?
- If you could grow anything in the yard, what would it be?
- What do you enjoy giving to people?
- What bugs you the most?
- What is the funniest thing you've ever eaten?
- What makes you smart?
Questions for elementary and middle school age
- What makes you feel brave?
- What makes your friends so awesome?
- What makes you so awesome?
- If you joined the circus, what would your circus act be?
- Where would you like to travel?
Questions about school
- What was the most boring class today?
- What was the easiest homework given today?
- Did you hear/tell a funny joke during lunch?
- Would you change anything about school?
- Who did you play with?