You: “Please clean up your toys.”
You: “Because someone might step on them and get hurt.”
Sound familiar? A constant string of questions is very common in toddlerhood. Once your toddler begins to say phrases with three or more words – often around 24 months – you might start hearing questions more often.
Why So Many Questions?
Put simply, your little one is getting more curious about the world around him. Between 24 and 36 months, your toddler is building his vocabulary at a rapid pace. For him to understand not just words, but also the concepts that go along with words, he starts to question things.
As he puts words together, he’ll begin to add to questions to get a clearer understanding of what he wants to know. Using the example above, Why might become, Why toys hurt? He might also start asking, Where, What, or What’s that? questions before the age of three, while Who, When, and How? usually appear between ages 3 and 5.
As repetitive as his questions might seem to you, many benefits come from his curiosity, such as:
- He’s turning to you to explain things in a way he understands, which shows he is seeking information from people he trusts.
- He’s showing an interest in what’s around him, which can boost his understanding of objects and people in his environment.
- He’s building his vocabulary and communication skills by listening to your response and formulating his own answers.
- He’s being proactive about his own learning, which is an important part of cognitive development.
Expanding Your Toddler’s Understanding
By taking these few small steps when your toddler starts throwing questions at you, you can validate his learning process and deepen his understanding.
Be patient…and make it fun!
It can certainly feel frustrating to hear a never-ending chain of questions when you say something to your toddler. However, prevent your toddler from sensing your frustration by remaining cool, calm, and collected. Remember – he has a desire to learn, and that’s something to be celebrated!
You can always make the process more fun for both of you by involving him in a hands-on activity or reading a book instead of answering the same questions repeatedly. For example, if he asks Why? when you tell him to wash his hands before dinner, you might put some glitter on his hands to act like germs. He’ll be able to see the “germs” as he washes them off, which can help him better understand the concept.
Give detailed responses.
Your toddler may not understand every word you say, but the more words he hears, the stronger his vocabulary and language skills become. When he asks a question, be as detailed as possible with your response in a way he can still understand.
For instance, if he asks Why? when you point out ducks flying overhead on a cold day, you can explain that ducks and their families go somewhere warm for the winter. It helps them stay nice and cozy, find food to feed their families, and have more babies. Don’t shy away from answering his questions in detail; trust us, he’s listening and taking it all in!
Respond with questions.
Older toddlers between 30 and 36 months often have enough language skills to understand and respond to simple questions. After you answer his question, try asking one back to him to keep those wheels turning.
Him: “What’s that?”
You: “That’s a leaf. Look, there’s a lot of them over here. Where do you think they came from?”
After looking around, your toddler says, “Tree, up there!” This simple trick gets him thinking beyond the question he asked.
Your toddler’s love for questioning is not only normal, but also crucial to his growing problem-solving and critical thinking skills.