Responding thoughtfully and patiently to your toddler's questions can encourage their curiosity, and build their knowledge. While it can be tempting to brush off the 50th question of the day with 'just because', there are many reasons to do your best to answer their questions.
Toddlers are learning how everything works.
Sometimes, it may feel like your little one is asking you the same or similar questions over and over again. This may be because your response hasn't provided the 'right' information. Your toddler is still figuring out not only what things are but how they work and why we use them; they are often more interested in the function of something rather than its label.
For example, if your toddler asks 'What's that?' and you answer 'This is a pan', your little one may not be satisfied. A more informative answer could be 'This is a pan, you use it for cooking food by heating it very hot on a flame on the stove.' Be patient and keep in mind that your little one isn't trying to be annoying – they just want to know what something does and why we use it (not just what it's called).
Questions are a way to connect.
Your toddler may be asking a lot of questions because they want to feel close to you. Perhaps they want some extra attention or want to feel a connection by learning from you.
If your toddler's queries seem 'pointless' remind yourself they don't have any other way of learning about the world around them just yet, and even simple things can seem important or confusing. Use the opportunity to teach them something, or, if the questions are becoming too much, suggest you spend some kind of quality time together to satisfy this need to connect.
Reverse the question.
Responding with 'You tell me why' or ‘What do you think?’ can provide your toddler with an opportunity to analyse their own thinking. It can also shed some light on how they perceive the world, particularly if the question is about why someone has done something a certain way. Helping your toddler answer their own questions can help build their confidence and critical thinking skills.
Avoid 'non-explanation’ answers.
While it's true that most of the time parents know best, answers like 'because I said so' may result in even more follow-up questions or a sense of confusion for your little one.
Use your best judgement about how much to tell your little one about adult things but be mindful that most of the time they are asking because they really want to understand.
When you don't have the answer…
You won't always know the answer to your toddler's questions, and that's okay! Use this as an opportunity to learn something together.
By researching your child's questions, it can show them that you care about their interests, and encourage them to speak their mind. Researching is also an excellent chance to teach them computer literacy skills, and show them how to look things up online or in books when they're old enough.
Is there an underlying meaning?
If your toddler seems unsatisfied with your answer, maybe you haven't answered their real question. Consider if there might be a possible underlying meaning. For example, a question about why we have to go to daycare could mean your little one is curious about where you go during the day and why you can't be together. However, it could reflect that something is happening at daycare that your child doesn't like which requires further follow up.
Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat.
Celebrate the fact that your child is engaging with the world around them! Asking questions shows that they are thinking and developing interests of their own. Before you know it they'll be grown up and discovering things on their own, so try and enjoy being a part of their learning process and teaching each other new things.