Advice & Tips

Why kids ask why? – How to emphasize their curiosity to learn

Buried In "Why" questions

Have you ever encountered a kid who asks WHY?

If you are a parent, I guess the answer is yes. Like a million times. The reason children want to know why, is simply because they want to make sense of the world around them. This is a way for them to constantly learn new stuff. Of course, our adult responses and reactions are crucial to emphasize their natural curiosity. So, the bigger questions are: What is your response to the “why” questions?, and How do you respond to the “why” questions?

Young explorers

When your kid is asking “why?” he or she expects and need to know an answer RIGHT NOW, so my advice is simply: try to provide an answer immediately that is either short or detailed, depending on what you know and in a way your child can understand. Most of the times, an informal answer is all that is needed in the moment. As an example, if your kid asks, “Why is it dark at night?” Your response can be brief and factual: “It is because the sun is not shining on the side of the earth were we are at during the night. All other stars are too far away to be able to provide enough light for us”. An answer like this is fully sufficient to help your kid learn about the world.

Of course, if your child has a deeper level of interest and understanding and you know a little more about the subject, the best way to honor your kid’s interest is to try to offer a more detailed response, such as: “The sun is not shining on the side of the earth were we are at during the night. All other stars are too far away to be able to provide enough light for us. But, it is not as dark when the full moon is up, because the moon reflects the light from the sun”. You could then make it a project to look up more information on the internet or take informational books out of the library about our planet and/or the universe with your kid.

Turn the question around

Another idea to deepen your kid’s thinking is to turn the “why” question around so your kid has to think about it and come up with an own answer. For example, your first response for the “why” question could be: “Why do YOU think it is dark at night?” Then let your kid think and respond with an original answer. A second, higher-order question back to your kid could be, “What do you think happens with the light during the night? And where is the sun during the night?” Again, let your child respond with an original answer.

Hmm… Maybe it is time for me to switch tactics when it is time for the kids to go to bed. Usually, the first question that pops-up is “Why should I go to bed now?”. According to the technique above, I should try to turn it around instead and ask “Why do you think you need to go to bed now? Of course, with the right  tone in my voice. 😉

Prepare for the future

I believe it is crucial to be able to answer “why” questions, because that is what we all encounter throughout our daily lives. I believe that in our increasingly technological and global world, our children will be asked to solve many problems that will require them to think for themselves and come up with their own answers.

To help prepare your child for the future, get involved in asking and answering as many “why” questions you can. Show that you are interested and encourage them to learn more in their quest to understand the world they live in. Inceptive learning

So, what can we as parents do at home to foster kid’s questioning abilities and support their learning? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Encourage “why” questions. Always try to respond in a supportive manner with an informative answer or ask another “why” question (e.g. “Why are plants green? 1. That’s a great question. Most plants have green leaves. The leaves contain a subject called chlorophyll which they use to get their nutrition from the light. 2. That’s an excellent question. Why do you think most plants have green leaves?). I know, after a numerous “why” questions maybe you are out of energy, therefore technique 2 to respond with a question will save you a lot of effort. 😉
  • Kids do what you do, not what you say you will do. Ask lots of “why” questions yourself (e.g., “Why do you think we have electricity in our house?”) to show your child that learning is a lifelong skill.
  • Read a lot of books to your kids. This increase their vocabulary which is a great help in order to be able to find answers to their questions and to be able to describe them.
  • Write down all your childs’ “why” questions on a piece of paper which you put on the refrigerator.
  • Place a note book somewhere easily accessible so your kids can write down, if they are old enough to know how to write, all the “Why” questions they have.
  • Learn more about higher order questions and why they are important in the process of learning.



I love this post! Why is probably the most important question we can ask, because the answers are open ended and debatable. On the other hand, it’s also a sign that the kid wants to understand something factual, and it’s a good chance to introduce those facts. Keeping up with Why can be exhausting but it’s so important!

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