554: Kid Questions

A Thousand Things to Talk About
554: Kid Questions

What’s the toughest question a kid has ever asked you? Why was it tough?

Full episode script

Kids LOVE asking questions. Depending on the research that you look at, it could be anything from 43 to 60 questions a day, and those questions run the gamut from easy to mind-bendingly difficult. My nephew, a few weeks ago, asked why time moves forward instead of in circles.

I’m still trying to figure out the answer to that one, but at the same time, the kinds of questions that kids ask are a special kind of magic. It helps create the basis of their understanding of the world — an understanding that can be adjusted through later questioning, but creates a basis.

A study published in 2008 in the Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development outlined this importance in saying, quote:

[…] the role of children’s questions in their cognitive development has been largely overlooked. If questions are a force in cognitive development, the following must be true:

(1) children must actually ask questions that gather information;

(2) children must receive informative answers to their questions if they are able to be of use to cognitive development;

(3) children must be motivated to get the information they request, rather than asking questions for other purposes such as attention;

(4) the questions children ask must be relevant and of potential use to their cognitive development;

(5) we must see evidence that children’s questions help them in some way-that is, that they can ask questions for a purpose, and use the information they receive purposefully to successfully achieve some change of knowledge state.


Knowing this, it’s still not surprising that parents often struggle with kids questions. A survey of 2,000 parents in 2012 revealed that two-thirds of parents said they struggled with the questions their kids ask, and one-fifth of the parents admitted that if they don’t know an answer, they sometimes make up an explanation or pretend that no one knows.

While there are the tough questions that everyone expects — why is the sky blue, how do planes stay up, where do babies come from… it’s usually the ones you don’t expect that are the most confusing.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.