Have you ever heard this statement “So, I have a silly question.”
As an early childhood specialist, I listened to teachers ask this question only for it to lead into a richer discussion regarding their classrooms. For many years, I coached infant and toddler teachers, and I used this statement as an opportunity to introduce the importance of responding to young children’s curiosity. Whenever a teacher led with that comment, I would either start the coaching conversation or end the conversation sharing the following story…
When I was three years old, my mother attended ESL classes at the county’s local community college. Adjacent to the college was a small childcare lab school that I attended for preschool. It was an incredible program. Well-defined learning centers with warm, patient, and interactive teachers. Now knowing what I know, the program was certainly a high-quality early childhood program. I am confident my preschool experiences reinforced my aspiration to become an early childhood professional.
One day, I asked my preschool teacher if she was a magician. Every day, my preschool teacher offered in the art center a fruit-scented play dough. I was perplexed by the possibility that play dough could smell sweet like grape juice, or citrusy like lemons. It was beyond my imagination. I remember her response, and all these years I have carried it with me. She said, “What a silly question, and I am so glad you asked it. Tomorrow you can help me make it, and I will show you the magical powder that goes into it.” My preschool teacher met my curiosity responsively instead of dismissing it. She relished in my joy; I can still hear her laughter as I helped her make the play dough. That day my teacher taught me that play dough was not just pliable dough; it could be so much more. It was beyond anything I could have imagined. My teacher recognized this question as a teachable moment and an opportunity to strengthen our relationship by affirming my question instead of dismissing it. This experience inspired the creation of my twitter handle @beyondplaydough (I invite you to follow me).
Have you ever wondered what it is like for young children when they ask adults questions?
If we are hoping to instill a sense of joy in learning, it is up to us as early childhood educators to respond authentically to young children’s bids and questions, no matter how silly they may seem.
As the mother of a preschooler who is currently in this state, I can relate to my teacher’s delight many years ago. The other night, while reading Duck on Bike by author David Shannon I paused on the hilarious page when all of the animals hop on the bicycles. I wanted to focus on defining new words by using what he already knew about bikes and then conceptually map the different types of bikes while introducing new vocabulary. As I pointed to each bike, I explained how Chicken was actually on a tricycle because it had three wheels. I noted that Pig and Pig were on a tandem bike built for two! Then, our son noticed one of the bicycles had a different shaped seat. He pointed at it and I told him it was called a banana seat, and immediately giggling ensued. He turned his head to look up at me and said, “You cannot sit on a banana Mama, it would be all mushy, that is just so silly. Why would anyone be so silly Mama and sit on a banana?”
Right on little guy, why would anyone be so silly?
What is the silliest question a child has asked you? Did the question delve into a deeper level of learning? Were you able to use it to further a child’s understanding of a particular concept, if so how?
Source: Linda Reddish, personal image
Linda Reddish, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD
Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and
John Porter, Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator
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