When we are born, our mind is like a blank canvas. It is yet to develop imagination, knowledge and experience. We seek clues from our environment and use our sensory system to make sense of the world. When we are unable to form reasons on our own, we ask questions. Answers to these questions help us create logical pictures, build theories, and draw conclusions. The more questions we ask, the wider our knowledge lens expands. We create a learning mechanism that only gets better with more knowledge & experience. As we grow older, we become more capable of choosing suitable colours to paint the canvas, that is our mind.
Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
The ability to ask questions helps a child think logically. More questions mean more curiosity. Our mind is like a muscle that only becomes stronger through repetition, and this mental exercise led by curiosity only makes our mind stronger & sharper. When we encourage them to ask questions & provide them with sincere answers, we speed up their cognitive development..
Whenever they discover a fresh concept, they ask questions. Parents and educators are responsible for facilitating a streak of open-ended questions. It’s not important to give the right answer all the time, but it’s important not to leave a question unanswered, even if it means a little bit of research from your end.
Look at it this way. It also helps you revisit your own canvas, expand & update your knowledge. Being an informed parent can also give you a sneak peek into your child’s own little world and helps you figure out their interests. Sometimes the questions seem unintelligent, irrelevant, embarrassing, but it’s not the worth of their questions but how you, as an educator, responds to them that defines their future.
As these little riddles in your child’s mind find closure, their confidence boosts and reflects in their performance. The ability to think better comes with skills like Conception/Perception, Information Processing, Problem-solving, and Decision-making, which is achieved by creating favourable conditions for Cognitive Development.
The theory of Cognitive Development was first introduced by Jean Piage, a Swiss psychologist, famous for his work on child development. It’s best understood by the four-stage process defined by him.
4 stages of Cognitive Development
The Sensorimotor Stage (Age Birth-2 years): They observe and learn to interact with the environment through activities led by their senses such as sucking, touching, biting, etc.
The Preoperational Stage (Age 2-7 years): The child learns to communicate and think at symbolic levels. They do not yet have a system to organize their thoughts, hence their actions are more intuitive than logical. They rely on their own experience to make sense of the world and cannot distinguish their own perception from the perception of others.
The Concrete Operational Stage (Age 7-11 years): In this stage, the child can think & perform logically. It also lays the foundation for the next stage in which they learn to think abstractly or hypothetically. They become more capable of understanding others’ ideas & perspectives.
The Formal Operational Stage (Age- 12 & Up): They start to think about issues that are social, political, morals, etc. There are now exposed to most aspects an adult has an access to, so they will grow curious about many things. To equip your kid with critical learning skills, the parents & teachers must attend to their questions and even teach them to ask better questions.
Each stage will bring about a set of questions more complex than the previous one. While most kids are curious, some might need a little nudge in that direction.
How to encourage your child to ask questions:
1. Appreciate their questions
When kids show an interest in an activity, they are likely to want to know more about it. Even if you are not equipped with the right answers, acknowledge and appreciate their inquisitiveness. Leave the trail of questions open.
2. Collaborate with them
If you think your child is not taking much interest in an activity, you can proactively ask questions. The questions should lead to a conversation where they feel free and safe to discuss problems if there are any. Your questions should get their thinking juices flowing and not pressure them into pursuing something they don’t enjoy doing. Make it look like a fun collaboration, not a daunting task. Eg. If you want them to explore coding, your question could be: How do you think this game works? Do you want to help me figure it out?
3. Show interest in their questions
If you don’t listen to their question intently, or answer vaguely, they might lose their interest. Not just in the activity, but in the practice of asking questions, too. If you laugh it off or tell them to ask smarter questions, it might create self-esteem issues. Do more than just answering their questions, tell them how interesting their question is. Ask them if they have tried to seek answers through different sources and see if you can arrange more solid resources for them.
4. Make them ask questions in ‘why’?
Asking questions in “why” leads to open-ended questions. It ensures they are not just stopping at one or two questions and helps them discover more about the subject.
5. Respect their questions
Sometimes they can surprise you with questions related to sensitive topics such as gender norms, politics, class system. Try not to be taken aback by such questions, as these questions form their perception of the world and are extremely important. If you think they cannot yet fully grasp the length & size of that topic, let them know that. Promise to revisit the topic at an appropriate time.
6. Make asking questions fun
Involve your child’s friends, siblings or cousins in their learning process. Eg. You can show them an educational movie and host a discussion afterwards. This will help them articulate their questions better and get them used to peer learning.
Take this ride full of fun, lessons, and questions, to explore your kid’s interest. Develop the skill of asking interesting questions in your child—for they say “those who cannot question, cannot think.”