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Your Curious Toddler

Has your toddler reached that age when she can’t seem to stop asking that one question that you knew would be coming some day: WHY? If so, then she is well on her way to using language to gather information about everything she notices around her. And isn’t that what we do every day? Of course, you might Google the answers to your questions. But if you had an authority standing right there, like Mommy or Daddy, wouldn’t it be a lot more convenient to just ask?

Between two and three, toddlers seem to discover the use of the word why. Since it is difficult to formulate whole sentences that begin with why, and it’s not necessary, this famous word of two-year-olds is usually uttered all by itself.

curious toddler
Mommy: I’ll do the dishes a little later.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Because I have some work to do right now.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Because I have to prepare for a meeting tomorrow.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Because there will be a lot of people there for me to speak to.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Because they’re interested in what I’m doing.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Okay, that’s enough. Now let Mommy get started with her work.

But very soon your child will begin to ask "wh" questions other than "why" (who, what, when, where, and how). It will be very difficult for him, though, to concentrate on using the question inversion, changing the order of the noun and verb (“Where is Bobby?” rather than “Where Bobby is.”) while focusing on these question starters. So how can you help him? When your child asks a question like this, you can just repeat the sentence changing the grammar as a model for the correct syntax.

Michael: Where Mommy is?
Dad: Where is Mommy? She’s at the store.
Michael: When Mommy’s coming home?
Dad: When is Mommy coming home? Pretty soon.
Michael: Why Mommy’s at store?
Dad: Why is Mommy at the store? She is buying some things for dinner.

And when your toddler is starting to ask questions, recognize that she has come to another very important milestone. She is not only seeking answers (and, as is the way with toddlers, seeking some attention), but she is also on her way to having real give-and-take conversations. Soon you’ll no longer have to just talk “at” your child (giving directions, explaining things, etc.), but you and she will ask, answer, and clarify – almost like adults. Just wait until she’s four, and see what you’ll be talking about!