Why Questions for Kids: How to Teach a Child to Answer Why Questions

Why to teach why questions for kids

Why questions for kids can be very useful. Being able to answer a “why” question can help him answer questions in class that show his knowledge and understanding of information, help him make sense of the world around him, and explain reasons for bad behavior and possibly keep him out of trouble. Here are some steps for teaching a child to answer “why” questions.  Children are typically able to answer “why” questions by 4 years of age. That’s why preschoolers constantly walk around asking “why? why? why?”. For the record, the author of this site holds no personal responsibility if you implement this protocol and your child starts asking “why” a million times. 🙂

Why Questions for Kids, Step One:
Answering Why About Things Currently Happening

To start off, you will want to ask some why questions for kids about things that are currently happening. This is the least abstract form of answering “why” questions so it should be used first before more abstract forms.  Get out a piece of paper that says “why?” on one side and “because…” on the other. There is a visual aid in my e-book or make your own. Show it to your child and explain that when you ask a “why” question, he should tell you an answer that starts with “Because”. Then, tell him he should tell you a reason. Now, give him some examples. You can say “If you’re yawning and I say ‘Why are you yawning?’, you can say ‘Because I’m tired’”. Give your child a few more examples of “why” questions and then choose something to play with your child. Get out something your child enjoys doing but make sure you will have an opportunity to talk during the activity (video games aren’t great for this). While your child is playing, ask him various “why” questions about his behavior and help him come up with an answer. For example, if he knocks down the tower of blocks, you could say “Why are you knocking that down?” Then, show him the visual aid and say “Listen, I asked you a ‘why’ question. Your answer should start with ‘because’. Why did you knock down the blocks? Because…” Then pause and see if your child can fill in the rest of the question. If not, help him out with a reason (“Because I like to see it fall”). As your child gets better at this, ask questions like this about your child’s actions throughout the day as well.

Why Questions for Kids, Step Two:
Answering Why About Past Events

Now that your child is answering why questions for kids about current happenings, you should be able to ask about past events as well.  Use the visual aid from the last step as well if your child needs it to help him remember to say “Because” at the beginning of his answer. Keep asking “why” questions about current happenings but also start throwing in some “why” questions about past events. Start with events that have just recently passed so they’re still fresh in her memory. For example, you could ask “why did you hit your sister?” or “why were you crying?”. See if your child can give you a reason for these actions. If not, try giving her some choices so she can process through why she did things the way she did. For example, you could say “Did you hit your sister because you were mad at her, or because you were jealous of what she had, or because you love her?”

Why Questions for Kids, Step Three:
Answering Hypothetical “Why” Questions

Now that your child is answering “why” questions about his own behaviors and motivations for them, it’s time to start asking some more abstract “why” questions. These are questions like “why do we sleep?” and “why do we wear shoes?”. They require a bit more complex thinking because they are probably things that your child hasn’t stopped to think about the reasoning behind very often.   Use the pictures on the next page of common actions and events and ask your child why they typically happen. You may have to tell your child the answers to these at first and that’s ok. Like I said above, chances are he’s never stopped to think about why he wears shoes outside, he just knows he is supposed to. Once he can answer all of the questions on the worksheet, start asking him other “why” questions. Ask him “why” questions about anything that comes up and try to help him come to the answer by himself. Give him little clues and hints that will help him along the way. For example, if you asked your child “why do we wear shoes?” and he couldn’t come up with an answer, you could say things like “Well, what happens if you don’t wear shoes outside?” or “Have you ever hurt your foot when you weren’t wearing shoes?”. Keep asking leading questions like that until he gets the correct answer. Or, if he’s struggling you can go ahead and tell him the answer, but make sure you come back and ask that one again sometime so he can practice the answer. You can also ask “why” questions while reading books. Read a page and then ask why something happened in the book. You can then move this into a hypothetical question as well. For example, if the character in the book is mad about something, you can say “why is he mad?”. Then, after answering that one, you can ask “why do you get mad?”.

Where to Find More Information:

A more detailed version of this guide about why questions for kids, along with 38 other guides, is included in Ms. Carrie’s E-Book: Speech and Language Therapy Guide: Step-By-Step Speech Therapy Activities to Teach Speech and Language Skills At Home or In Therapy.  This guide includes detailed information on teaching various speech and language skills, including this one, along with worksheets, handouts, sample IEP goals, and data collection sheets.  For more information, click the button below:

Speech and Language Therapy Guide