Use your child’s inquisitive mind as a springboard to help him learn more about the world.
LAST week, before class started, I met a young preschooler standing at the door of his classroom. He asked me what I was doing in his school. I told him I was there to train the teachers.
“Why do teachers need to be teached?” quipped the articulate five-year-old.
I responded: “You want to know why your teachers need to be taught? Your teachers need to learn more to do a better job in teaching the children in the class.”
He was satisfied with this response and then proceeded to help his teachers to arrange the furniture.
Children will ask compelling and interesting questions when they are in environments that support their learning. The adults in their lives offer them positive models to observe and interact with. Children ask more questions if they feel comfortable doing so.
They also need materials that will create meaningful learning experiences that lead to interesting questions. Children like to use the materials that they see the adults around them working on.
The adults can equip themselves through resources like books and the Internet. They can also help the children evaluate their questions. To arrive at certain answers, experiments may be useful. The adult and the child can have great fun together discovering the physical world.
In other words, by observing and interacting with adults and objects in context-rich, meaningful environments, children learn not only to process information at a deeper level and develop thinking skills but also to come up with their own questions.
Most parents talk to their children and ask them questions. But, their questions tend to be like: “What are you doing with your brother’s pencil box?” or “What is this colour?” or “How many apples do you have?”
Adults tend to ask few, simple and redundant questions. They do it at random. Most times, they do not follow up with the topics they start with their children. They switch topics quickly as they try to teach their children something. Children may regard such interactions with negative feelings.
Adults are in the habit of asking questions that have obvious answers. Their reason for doing so is to impart knowledge about the world. One question commonly heard is: “What is this?”
Children enjoy using new words in their conversations.
One preschooler was reading Jack And The Beanstalk with his mother at bedtime. He stopped at the word “frightened”. He asked the meaning of the word.
His mother asked him: “How did Jack feel when he first saw the giant?”
Her son replied: “Jack was afraid when he saw the giant.”
His mother then told him that the word “frightened” means the same as “afraid”.
Children like to imitate their parents. One mother was having difficulty assembling a gadget she had purchased from a shop. She said aloud: “I wonder what I can do to figure out the problem.” Her five-year-old son was playing next to her.
On a separate occasion, this mother overheard her son using the exact words when he was trying to put together a construction toy.
Children become better at problem-solving when they can ask their own questions. One four-year-old boy paused while he was having his tea. He asked the caregiver: “Why is there night and day? Why does the sun come out in the day and the moon come out at night?”
To tackle these questions from a curious child, the caregiver answered: “Sounds like you are interested in knowing more about night and day. Let’s find the answers from some books.”
It is vital to help children feel that their questions are important. They also need to know that they are accepted and can seek help from their parents when working out difficulties.
Children will venture to ask more questions when they are not worried about making mistakes and getting punished. They want to explore the world. Their questions will stimulate greater interest.
Children as young as four sometimes ask perceptive questions, such as: “How are the butterfly and the moth different?” “What would happen if we didn’t have mosquitoes?” “How does the lion feel being trapped in the cage?” and “Why do we have blood in our bodies?”
The next time you spot an ant trail somewhere in your house, invite your child to follow it by saying: “Where are the ants going? I wonder what they are doing.”