I remember very clearly declaring, likely to myself only, that when my daughter (my first child) entered the “WHY” phase I was going to answer every question. I was going to take the time to answer every little question that popped into her head.
And I did try. I would explain everything as thoroughly as I could, followed with “why” after “why” after “why”, until I was googling the most scientific things trying to appease my 2 year old.
When my second child entered the “WHY” phase, he was accompanied with a newborn brother. No googling occurred. But I did try my best, whatever my best may have looked like at that sleep deprived, exhausted Mama stage.
So now, with my youngest in full “WHY” quandaries, now I read the most helpful piece of advice for handling those questions!
I read one short paragraph from a book I have been really enjoying (You are Your Child’s First Teacher, by Rahima Baldwin Dancy).
“When children ask questions, such as “why does the sun shine?” they are really asking about purpose rather than mechanics.”
Hmmm … I read it a few times, thinking perhaps this would help me through this toddler “why” phase the third time around. It really made a lot of sense to me! The author goes on to explain that a child is far more nurtured by a response such as “to keep us warm and to help plants grow” than they are with a scientific explanation about the sun being a burning ball of gas.
Makes sense, right?
Now perhaps to you this is common knowledge, but it was a brand new way of thinking for me.
I thought I would play it out yesterday. I made a conscious effort to stop after every “why” was asked, and think specifically about the function. What purpose was the object/action/idea serving.
“Why is it raining?” …. “Why do birds have wings?” … “Why do we need to eat lunch?”
Simply answered with just a few words. “To give plants some water to drink”, “So they can fly”, “So our tummies aren’t hungry and we can play!”
Once I got in to the pattern, it was very simple. And interestingly, many of the follow up “why’s” diminished. Ben really seemed to be satisfied with my answers. MY answers, not a scientist I quoted from a Google search.
As it turns out, most two year olds do not really yet understand advanced physics, chemistry, or other scientific terminology and ideas. They just want to know how it affects THEM.
And if you have a two year old, that should really be no surprise. Those sweet little egocentric beings….
OH – and I just need to mention quickly … our baby chicks have arrived! The cuteness! (Is that me being egocentric too? But please … CUTE!)
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