Research has shown that the kids who ask the most questions are four-year-old girls, a finding that will surprise absolutely no-one who has a four-year-old girl.
A study in Britain last year claimed that these inquisitive little tykes can crank out 73 questions a day. That’s roughly one every ten minutes while they’re awake.
I have a four-year-old daughter and I would just like to say that estimate seems a little on the low side.
The comedian Louis C.K. used to do a bit in his act about the questions his children asked him all the time: “You can’t answer a kid’s questions. They don’t accept any answer. A kid never goes ‘Oh thanks, I get it.’ They never say that. They just keep coming with more questions – Why? Why? Why? Why?”
My daily walks to school and daycare with my two daughters are a bit like a moveable game of Trivial Pursuit, deviously designed to reveal how little I know about the world.
One day last week the special subject was slimy animals.
Questions included: Why do snails have shells? Then why don’t slugs have shells? Do worms have mouths? And if they don’t, then how do they eat? And what do they eat? And how do they move? And if they don’t have eyes, how do they know where they’re going?
This all happens before I’ve had coffee. After drop-offs I usually arrive at the café a mental wreck, then proceed to order a double-shot and frantically Google for answers in anticipation of the school pick-up.
The UK study also did a survey of the most common questions kids ask. You’ve probably been asked a lot of these yourself and been stumped. Well, you’re in luck, because I decided to find out the answers. You’re welcome.
Why is the sky blue?
Ah, starting with the easy ones, are we? Okay, stay with me here. Light travels from the sun in waves and is made up of many colours. Blue is a short wavelength, red is long and all the others are in between. By the time the light gets to us here on earth, it has had to pass through and bend around a lot of things, so it gets scattered. It’s the waves that are shorter that get through to us. So that’s why the short blue ones get through, but the longer ones don’t.
Why do I need to go to bed so early but you and mummy don’t?
Because we just want a bit of a life, okay? Is that too much to ask? Oh, sorry, you wanted a scientific reason. Your brains and your bodies, my little ones, are growing at an incredible rate. Your body needs much more rest than we do to help it grow. And your brain is taking in so much information. When you sleep, your brain takes all the information from the day (short-term memory) and starts storing it in a place where you’ll be able to get it later (long-term memory). You’ve seen Inside Out, right?
What are clouds made of?
Warm and moist air rises. It cools down as it gets higher and billions of tiny drops of water and ice crystals get together and form into clouds. You’ve seen Frozen, right?
What are the stars and the sun made of?
Much like you after we go out to a Mexican restaurant, my little darlings – very, very hot gas. The stars and the sun are like gigantic ovens that burn a thing called hydrogen into a thing called helium and that’s what makes them glow so brightly.
Why did the dinosaurs disappear?
Disappeared? What do you mean? Look out! There’s one behind you right now! And he looks hungry! But seriously, there are a few different theories about this one. One is that a big asteroid hit the earth 65 million years ago; another is that the earth went through an ice age; another is that there was a series of huge volcanic explosions; and another is that a disease killed them off. Maybe when you grow up you can become a scientist and work it out.
Is there life on other planets?
What? You don’t like it here? Earth isn’t good enough for you? But seriously, good question. And the truth is we’re not sure. There’s an organisation called SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) that has been looking for life on other planets for a long time. For there to be life, a planet needs water, it needs to be not too hot and not too cold and it needs certain chemicals (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen). Earth’s got all that. But we’re not sure whether any other planets do. SETI is still looking though.
Where do babies come from?
Ask your mother. Seriously. Ask your mother.