As much as it may be exasperating (“but why does it do that? dad”), studies have found that preschoolers’ questions play an important role in their cognitive development. Researchers found that when children who ask information-seeking questions get informative answers, they’re satisfied. When they don’t, they keep on asking. So they’re not just doing it for attention after all — they’re just trying to get to the bottom of things.
What’s more, the content of the questions kids ask changes over the course of their development in ways that suggest they are building concepts in their brains and gathering the information they need to learn more about the world.
The biggest issue us parents have, then, is that often we don’t have satisfactory answers to some of the more profound questions our kids ask. Or, as author Gemma Elwin Harris puts it: “I know it won’t be long before I’m struggling to explain what the moon is made of, how far away it is, and whether a goldfish could survive there.”
Turns out kids can handle some pretty deep philosophical contemplations on life, the universe, and everything.
Which is exactly why Harris decided to compile Big Questions from Little People. What if, she wondered, you could turn to well-known experts and get them to answer for you, in simple language your child could understand.
Harris asked thousands of schoolchildren at ten different elementary schools to send in the questions they most wanted answered. And various experts — from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and philosopher Noam Chomsky, to writer Philip Pullman and survivalist Bear Grylls — took the time to answer.
Books designed to answer kids’ questions are ubiquitous — just look online. But what’s special about Harris’s book is the number of brilliant and experienced experts she’s persuaded to answer them, not to mention the savvy explanations they give.
You’ll also discover that children ask some really good (and big) questions. And by the same token, they won’t shy away from profound answers. Turns out they can handle some pretty deep philosophical contemplations on life, the universe, and everything.
‘Is it okay to eat a worm?’ for example. Survival expert Bear Grylls says yes, it is — but only if your life depends on it (“I find if you boil them up with some pine needles over a fire, it makes them taste a little bit better.”) Or ‘Why do we have music?’ Singer Jarvis Cocker describes the “shivery feeling behind your ears and down the back of your neck” when you put your favorite songs on.
Then there’s ‘Why do wars happen?’ (“Because,” says conflict reporter Alex Crawford, “it’s people don’t talk enough to each other.) Or the more esoteric ‘Can a bee sting a bee? — the title of the paperback version of Harris’s book. Spoiler: yes, it can (according to entomologist Dr. George McGavin).
The most profound question of all? If a cow didn’t fart for a whole year and then did one big fart, would it fly into space? But we’re not going to reveal everything. To find out the answer to that one, you’re going to have to buy the book. Or…
If you’re new to the club, use code QUESTIONS to receive a free copy of Big Questions from Little People when you join Literati.