The Why of Learning

This past weekend I was at my local store buying groceries for the week. I did not have my child with me, so I could casually listen as other parents interacted with their children. I overheard one conversation between a mom and her 2-year-old daughter that brought a smile to my face.


Child: Mom, why are you buying that?
Mom: Because your dad really likes it.
Child: Why does he like it?
Mom: Because it tastes good.
Child: Why does it taste good?
Mom: Because the people that make it have great recipes to make great tasting food?
Child: Why don’t you have those recipes?
Mom: I use other recipes.

The conversation continued, but I had to get on with my shopping.

I applaud the mother’s patience as she continued to answer the “why” questions. I have to admit; sometimes I am not so patient with my child, which discourages her natural curiosity. Dr. Dawn Taylor in her column “Why Children Ask Why” gives helpful hints on how to handle these types of questions. Dr. Taylor says “Asking why is one of the most important strategies children have for connecting with their caregivers and learning about the world around them.” Children aren’t always seeking the answers to the questions they ask, but are seeking conversation.

At FasTracKids, we embrace the “why” questions. We use questions to create connections with children, yet we don’t wait for the children to ask the questions. Adults create the conversational connections with children throughout every FasTracKids Lesson. If a child asks an adult in the classroom “Why does a car move faster than a horse?” The teacher’s trained response is simply “Why do you think a car moves faster than a horse?” Allowing the child to struggle with the “why” question not only builds the emotional connection with the child, but allows the child to be the source for their own answers.

Eric Jensen in his book Teaching with the Brain in Mind points out that the process of attaining the solution is more important than the solution itself. Brain connections are created as children try to produce answers to complex problems. It is okay if the child does not get the answer correct as it is their willingness to wrestle with the question that is important.

It is imperative to know that children asking “why” questions aren’t simply seeking information, but are seeking quality connections with adults. Why not provide children with enriched experiences by allowing them the opportunity to construct the answers to their own questions.

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