As the parent of any preschool age child knows, ‘why?’ is one of the most frequently asked questions in the young child’s language arsenal. But why ‘Why?’? In addition to fact-finding tools, children’s questions are a mechanism for developing critical thinking skills.
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Preschooler’s questions play an important role in mind development, not only for gathering facts. When children encounter a gap in their current knowledge, asking a question allow them to get targeted information exactly when they need it. Furthermore, the act of gesturing, using typical facial expressions, and asking questions reflects a learning process about what information to acquire, how to get it, and how to use it.
Children ask questions that are related in topic and structure to their stage of cognitive development. The content of these questions shifts over the course of development in ways that reflect the child’s conceptual development.
Parents and teachers can do many things to encourage and model complex thought processes. Thinking processes can be made more visible by modeling the kinds of questions that can be used to gather different kinds of information, and also even when answering children’s questions. So next time your child asks ‘Why?’ for the thousandth time, try to remember that you are giving your child fundamental information about something that has piqued their curiosity – you are helping your child find out about the world, as well as think critically about how it works.
A note about the author:
Dr. Randa Grob-Zakhary, MD Ph.D. is the Founder of The Babyboost Institute for Early Learning and Development. Want more tips? Purchase Babyboost: 50 Critical Facts on Amazon.