Handling questions you don't know the answer to

Thinking & Learning   |   Age: 2 years 8 months

Handling questions you don't know the answer to

Considering the fact that they haven’t been talking that long, toddlers sure manage to ask a lot of questions throughout the day. While the constant barrage of “why” can certainly tire you out, your tot’s curiosity is a good sign.

As your baby grows, her brain is growing along with her, working on critical thinking skills and making connections about the world around her. This means lots of questions for you, and no matter how knowledgeable you are, there’s a good chance there will be one or two you won’t know the answer to.

When your baby asks a question, and you’re not sure of the answer, there are a number of different ways you can respond. Here are some scenarios you might face each day, and ideas for how to answer these types of tricky inquiries.

“What is that?”

The world around your baby is still very new, and she still looks to you to identify the unfamiliar things she sees. Sometimes, the answer might be easy, but other times she might point something out that you can’t really identify either. One way to handle this is to let your baby take the lead by asking her what she thinks. While this method may not bring you any closer to an answer, it will give her the chance to think, and her answers will give an interesting window into the way she thinks.

“Where did my toy go?”

Suddenly, your baby is frantically searching for a toy she hasn’t played with in months, and she needs to know where it is right this instant. This might catch you off-guard, and leave you feeling just as clueless. In this scenario, the best answer is an honest one. Tell your baby, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” Though it’s not an instant resolution, she will appreciate your help, and looking for the toy together will help her practice her patience.

“Why is the sky blue?”

This is a common one for toddlers. After all, how did this big thing get up there, and who the heck decided it should be blue? In general, though, toddlers often ask questions about the physical makeup of the world that adults might just accept without really knowing the reason for it. You may not readily know the answer to these kinds of questions, but a quick Internet search can fix that, and looking for an answer together can help to encourage her to look for answers. The explanation may go as far over your baby’s head as the sky itself right now, but she will be satisfied with having a response, and who knows? Maybe some of it will stick in her head.

“Who made this?”

If your baby suddenly has a pressing need to know who made the first spoon while you’re out to eat, you may not have the time (or the will) to go through the process of looking up the answer. Sometimes, it’s fine to just say, “I don’t know.” Admit defeat. She will move along to another question soon enough.

“When will I be big enough?”

Perhaps you’re at a theme park and your baby wants to know when she will be tall enough to go on one of the big kid rides. Of course, there is no way of predicting when her height will hit the magic number, so in this case, it can be fun to make up a silly answer - try telling her you bet she’l be big enough in about 1,346 days.

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