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Why all the whys? – a blog from Kate Freeman, Lead Communication Advisor at I CAN

This week our blog is dedicated to our membership of the Read On.Get On campaign which is focussing on getting little ones ready to read by helping parents develop 2-5 year old’s communication skills

I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer“- Stephen Hawking

It’s a familiar scene for many. You’re busily trying to get ready for bed, a shopping trip-, or to finish a meal while it’s still warm but it’s a struggle because your little one is more inquisitive than Curious George. Why mum? Why Dad? But why?

Though it might really feel like a ploy, a last minute plea for a later bedtime or no more broccoli or for 5 more minutes of {insert name of favourite hobby} there’s a genuine reason for this questioning and it’s to do with making sense of the world – a key skill in developing communication that will be so important for the rest of their lives.

By questioning we develop understanding – we get answers, we check whether they make sense to us, we ask another to clarify things, we process the answer and consider it. By questioning we expand our vocabulary with new words with new meaning. By questioning we are also engaged in an exchange with someone else using complex techniques, taking turns, making sure what we’re asking is understood as a question using a change in tone and a question word, and we listen to the answer and maybe demonstrate we understand, or ask another question to check our understanding.

Today’s poll released by the Read On.Get On campaign found that young children ask up to seven questions a day, leaving mums and dads stumped for answers to at least four of those enquiries.

  • 3 year old children ask more questions than any other age (9 questions)
  • 47% of parents say they notice their child asks more questions during a journey
  • 35% of parents say children ask more questions to avoid doing what they’re told
  • A quarter of parents admit to telling tales in order to distract children from their question if they are unsure of the answer.
  • 15% of parents say they are not very imaginative so do not make up stories with their children

The results of today’s poll made national news and that’s also interesting because we really don’t think enough about speech, language and communication skills and how complex they are and how they develop over time in children – with the support and attention of the adults in their lives. We take our communication skills for granted quite often and sometimes it takes a puzzled look on the face of a small child when we use a new word they don’t know to remind us that we have to learn language. Most people learn to talk easily and it’s important to remember that, like many other skills, it takes some nurturing and development.

It is so important to listen to the questions children have and reward them for the wondrous questions they ask.” -May-Britt Moser

Kate Freeman, Lead Communication Advisor