When My Toddler Asks “Because Why?”

Before bed last night, we read Tough Boris by Mem Fox. Tough Boris has 29 pages of story. Greysen asked 29+ detailed “because why?”  questions about every page. “Because why is he on the beach?” and “Because why is he tough?”  are only some of the questions I field throughout the day with just about everything I do. Nothing, even the familiar, is exempt from “because why?”


” . . .  between ages 2 and 3, children develop the cognitive ability to make logical connections between things — to understand why things happen. This is a critical skill that helps them gain a much more complex understanding of how the world works.. When they ask, “why?” they are showing a thirst for knowledge. They want more information. So asking “why” is critical for your child. The more she asks, “why?”, the more she learns. ”  – Zero to Three


This morning I overheard Greysen speaking to her stuffed animals as she laid them on her bed.


“You are going to Hincher. Hincher means America.” While this definition does not clear up what “Hincher” means to me, I did learn something about her. Greysen is using the pattern of defining and explaining our ideas and experiences and incorporating them into her play. That is, she is explaining to Raggedy Ann that there was a reason for her actions.


When she asks questions, I don’t always have the answers nor do I feel as though I should. I do , however, try my best to consistently respond as authentically as I can.


I realized that I respond in several ways:

  • A direct answer
  • Speculation, or what I refer to as using our imaginations to answer her questions about character motives, for example.
  • An honest, “I don’t know.” I am not all-knowing, nor would I like her to think that I have all the answers. Modeling asking more questions and seeking out multiple ways to answer questions are just a couple of ways I try to convey to her that it’s okay to not have answers.
  • “Let’s find out.” Researching answers through books or experiments is one way to empower her and help build confidence that she can answer her own questions.  Seeking out answers or advice from other people who may have the knowledge is a one way to foster collaboration.


Soon I know we will have more complicated conversations. I can respond with questions that solicit her ideas, opinions, and understanding of a concept by asking, “What do you think?” or “Do you have any ideas about that?” For now, though, it feels as though Greysen is on a personal research project. While her thesis is unknown, her methodology is clear and developing everyday.

One thought on “When My Toddler Asks “Because Why?”

  1. I love this. Everyday Caleb asks “why?” I often respond with “what do you think?” giving the question back to him. most often times he comes up with his own answer. I love this age of pretend play and how often Caleb incorporates his ideas, fears, joys, etc. into his play! We miss you guys. Playdate soon?

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