Thursday, January 7, 2010

When Preschoolers Ask Why

If you spend time with preschoolers, you have undoubtedly been asked many questions which start with "why".

"Why do I have to go to bed?"
"Why are the leaves falling off the trees?"
"Why can't I watch more TV?"

Young children are trying to learn more about how the world works and one of the ways they do this is by asking lots of questions.

Researchers from the University of Michigan set up situations for preschoolers to intentionally provoke questions. When the children asked questions, adults would either give an explanation or a non-explanation. The researchers then measured how the kids reacted for each type of response. The LiveScience article on this research reported:
They found significant differences in types of reactions to the explanatory answers versus the non-explanatory ones. Nearly 30 percent of the time kids would agree, nod or say "oh" after getting a true explanation, compared with just under 13 percent of the time for non-explanations.

For such non-answers, more than 20 percent of the time kids re-asked the original question. Just 1 percent of kids receiving an explanation did the same.

If you don't want to hear the same question over and over, give an explanation but be ready for follow-up questions!

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