Children have a love and a capacity for puzzlement and curiosity. Their minds are open to many tricky problems of our existence and the world.
- “Where do our memories go?”
- “What lies beyond the tiniest star in the sky?”
- “How do I know that I dream is not true?”
- “Can I hold thoughts in my hands?”
- Big, difficult and unsettling questions!
Even very young children like exploring the wonders of our lives. The conventional wisdom of many theories such as Jean Piaget and Sigmund Freud suggest that children are limited in their thinking to here and now. But many modern cognitive theories have discovered that this is simply not right.
But often we do not engage in these types of questions with our children. In addition, many children spend days or even weeks in the classroom without asking any questions. Four-year-olds ask many questions but after a couple of years in school they stop asking questions. One question per month is what many young adults pose in the class-room (only certain types of questions were included in the study – the questions had to be of substance).
Many ideas related to why children may spend the day in a classroom without asking any questions has been suggested. Yet we rarely model how to ask questions, which is strange since this skill may be particularly important. Part of the problem may also be that we expect children to ask the right questions. If you are only allowed to ask some sort of questions, a child becomes limited and the curious mind is not allowed to blossom. As adults be may need to develop skills to select appropriate questions that we can explore and find answers to but children should be encouraged to continue to ask all types of questions. There is not formula for the right question; it is how to choose to explore questions that is vital.
Some question may be silly and a child may not expect an answer. Some questions may be posed at the wrong time – morning rush hour questions. But we can always make a note of questions and think dive later. Turning thinking into an action makes it more engaging Thinking is not something that takes place in our head; it is something that takes place in an environment.
Interesting questions often have no simple answer; it is the search for possible solutions and ideas that is the fulfilling part. As parents and teachers, it is easy to feel that we have to have an answer to a question and this prevents us from exploring some topics. Be brave and model how to search for answer and ways to explore a topic rather than model that you are the expert on the topic. Naturally, on some topics you may well be the expert – how to tie shoelaces or how to chop vegetables. But we may not have an answer to deeper question and that is fine.
Explore questions and listen to the fresh and often unexpected perspectives that children may bring to a topic. Think Dive together and actively search for possible ways. Twist and turn the question around to explore it from many different angles.
- How would a robot answer the questions?
- How would grandma answer the question?
- What aspects are important if you are an ant, a bird, or a giant troll?
If you do not understand the question – ask your child to explain it? What made her think about the problem? And do not give an answer to all questions. Invite her to explore questions and help her to open her mind to different ideas and possibilities. Dare to embrace the waves but help her to prepare herself for the thinking. Control over how you attack and approach a questions is vital. A moment of reflection helps to focus the mind. This is a great skill to teach even young children.