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Unlocking Curiosity: Exploring “Who, What, Where, Why, How” with Your Toddler

“Who, what, where, why, and how” are powerful words that captivate toddlers’ attention and curiosity. These simple yet profound question words effortlessly connect to the things that intrigue toddlers the most. They lay the foundation for language exploration and offer endless opportunities to understand cause and effect.

At this stage, your toddler’s comprehension of language surpasses their ability to express it. They can understand around 2 new words each day, even if they haven’t started using them themselves. This makes it the perfect time to introduce and explore the magic of “who, what, where, why, how.” As you engage in deliberate lessons, you empower your toddler to explain their interests, identify objects, understand reasons, locate places, and comprehend processes. This sparks their intellectual curiosity and encourages independent questioning.

To bring “who, what, where, why, how” to life, follow these steps:

  1. Make the Connection: Ensure that the question and the answer go hand in hand. For example, ask, “Where are your shoes?” and then respond, “Here they are!” Or introduce someone by asking, “Who is that?” and then provide the answer, “That is our neighbor, Marta!” Emphasize the specific word you’re introducing, as if you were teaching a foreign language. Focus on one word for a week or two before moving on to the next. Soon, you’ll witness evidence of your toddler’s understanding, even if they can’t articulate the words themselves yet.
  2. Play “Where Is It?“: Highlighting the word “where,” ask your toddler to find familiar objects. For instance, ask, “Where are your shoes?” and search together until you find them, exclaiming, “Here they are!” Similarly, hide a favorite ball and ask, “Where did it go?” Encourage your toddler to locate it and joyfully say, “Here it is!” As their comprehension improves, ask, “Where is the cup?” and observe their response without assistance.
  3. Play “Who Is That?“: Introduce family members, friends, or characters in books. Ask your toddler, “Who is that?” and provide the answer, such as “That is Uncle Theo” or “That is Max.” Explore pictures of loved ones around your home, asking who each person is and offering the correct response.
  4. Play “Why?”: Although the question “why?” may be more complex for toddlers, you can introduce it now. Create a playful scenario with a family member where a door mysteriously closes. Ask aloud, “Why did that door close? Why?” Then, open the door together, pointing to the family member and explaining, “Oh, ___ pushed the door closed, that’s why.” You can also incorporate “why” when preparing for a meal, explaining why handwashing is necessary before eating.
  5. Play “How?”: The word “how” helps explain the workings of things. Use examples like “This is how you kick the ball” or “Here’s how you turn on the tap” or “This is how we wash our hands” or “This is how I use my fork.” Encourage questions like “How did the ball get on the roof?” or “Can you show me how you opened the drawer?”
  6. Play “What Is That?”: Nurture your toddler’s vocabulary by pointing out various objects and asking, “What is that?” Then provide the answer, such as “That is an apple.” Use the word “what” while naming objects in books, pictures, or during walks.

By igniting your toddler’s curiosity and engaging in language exploration, you foster their development and understanding of the world around them. Enjoy the journey of discovery together, one question at a time!