Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Episode Twenty Five: Answer Their Questions

When I was young I remember my father telling me about the hard questions we asked him. My brother asked why was the sky blue, my sister asked where do mountains come from and I can never remember what I asked. What I can remember is that he tried his hardest to answer them and when he was exhausted with the follow up questions he said "go ask your mother". When mum got exhausted of those questions she said "go ask your teacher" and the teacher said "go home and ask your father". Classic.

The other day while doing some yard work my wife found a bird's nest. I don't think I'll ever cease to be amazed by the way a bird can construct something so intricate and so ornate. They are incredibly complicated and I've often thought about how I could recreate one but I'm convinced I couldn't replicate the attention to detail. Incredible!

My children were equally impressed and we all took turns looking at it and examining it; wondering what sort of bird could possibly come up with such a puzzling piece of architecture. We also talked about the different strands that were used; not just sticks and twigs but parts of shade cloth, polythene and moss. 

My wife wondered aloud how the birds transport the mud that is used to put it all together (really hoping it's mud, otherwise ew!). My eldest boy wanted to know whether birds get taught how to build nests by their mothers or was it just 'natural ability', as he put it. My middle boy asked if they needed to be reminded how to make nests or if they learnt once and remembered every time. My youngest girl was just happy to poke and prod away at the nest.

With these questions in mind we went inside and looked for the answers on the magical internets. I always think about how lucky my children and I are to be living at a time where all the answers are stored on an easy-to-use network that can be accessed by anyone with a subscription and the technology. I think about how in the past knowledge has been kept guarded by those with influence or wealth. It was held in universities and other establishments that you had to get accepted in to. If you wanted to learn about how the brain worked you had to go to the school that had the best information about the brain. Now days you just do a search on Wiki. It's so awesome. People, who in previous times, wouldn't have had access to this knowledge have begun to use it in all sorts of ways.

Answering your children's questions honestly, properly and effectively is probably the best thing you can do for them. You're teaching them to think, to explore their ideas. You're teaching them that their thoughts and opinions have value. Anyone with a child going through the "why?" phase will know that it's so easy to just give one word answers and dismiss all the questions. But actually indulging these questions can be a pretty fascinating past time. Children seem to have the craziest brains that come up with all sorts of weird and wonderful questions ( thinking). If you don't know the answer, show them how to find out. Or do a search together. Knowledge is power and you can either be like the university that held on tight to it's research and knowledge or you can give it out for free and see what your children do with it.

 If you're interested, a bird knows how to build a nest by instinct and by looking at the nest they grew up in. Birds don't need to be reminded how to make nests but aren't always great at it to begin with. Birds transfer mud and clay in their beaks when building nests. We also found this awesome BBC footage on YouTube - check it out:

Have fun!