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A Thousand Questions

by Maryann Whitfield

As a young mother I soon learned children ask a thousand questions.  It’s just what they do so naturally.  This can be a wonderful, yet challenging, experience for a parent.

A Thousand Questions

It was one of those normal days.  My young son Joshua sat in the loose dirt that was supposed to be my garden.  Playing with his dump truck, bulldozer, and tiny shovel he created roads and dug a few holes.  My mind was filled with my to-do list for the day.  I didn’t notice a large, orange butterfly flitting about.  But of course Josh did.  He stopped his road construction and stared at it.

“Mommy, why that butterfly orange?”

Oh, dear, I thought.  Another day of a thousand questions.  I didn’t know the answer, and if I did, how would I explain it to a two-year-old.

I replied in a conversational tone, “It’s such a beautiful bright orange.  Some butterflies are yellow.  Some are white.  Some are blue.  I wonder how butterflies can be so many different colors.”

Satisfied, Josh returned to his road building.  Soon though another question popped out, “The rocks so hard.  Why rocks hard?”  I marveled at his question. The dirt he was plowing with his bulldozer and digging with his shovel was loose and soft.  Mixed in it were rocks.  Hard rocks.  Soft soil with hard rocks.  What a contrast.  I thought about his powerful observation and his curiosity.  My question was how should I answer.  He was so young.  How would I explain it to him?

Once again not knowing quite how to respond I took a conversational approach.  “Isn’t it surprising the way the soil is soft, but the rocks are hard?  I wonder why that is.”

Josh pushed his bulldozer saying, “Move rock!  Look Mommy!  I move rock.”  I’m left pondering.  Maybe my job is not to answer all my son’s questions.  My job is to be a partner in a conversation with him.  A conversation that will encourage him to keep observing and thinking about what he’s interested in.

As Josh finished playing in the dirt I called to him, “Let’s go get some paper and crayons and draw a picture of the orange butterfly.”

Maryann–A Thousand Questions-Butterfly-horizontal

Questions Flourish in Moments of Wonder

Joshua loved to play.  He especially loved playing outdoors.  These simple, natural childhood experiences seem like an ordinary part of life.  But when you take a closer look, you discover they are powerful learning opportunities.  Because all children are made for learning.

When children are in natural settings, their innate ability to experience wonder bursts forth.  They notice things that often adults in their busyness fail to see.  They look closely as Joshua did when a brightly colored butterfly flitted near him.  That quality of looking closely made him wonder and led him to ask a thousand questions.  His curiosity caused him to ask questions because of his desire to gain knowledge.  The wonder and wondering continued as he played in the dirt and rocks.  His mind shaped questions and he sought a conversation that would help him learn how the world works.

A child’s questions can be tough to answer. And children have so many questions.  Is answering all their questions really the best way to help them learn?  What if we use their questions as pathways to conversations?  Conversations that encourage them to observe and think, and our role becomes that of a partner in conversation.  After all, sometimes curiosity and questions are more important than finding the answers.

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