What to explain?

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Kid : What are clouds made of?
Dad: They are made of water vapour, that was formed by heat of the sun…
Pause
Dad: Actually they are made of marshmallow, and when you are hungry you can eat them…

The above conversation is from the movie Project 2, that I saw yesterday and this has given raised a big question on what is the best way to explain things to children?

To my son (turned 4) who keeps asking a lot of questions, I have been answering them in actual scientific terms and now I think, was that necessary at all? What would have happened if had answered differently, like things which will make him go crazy?

What is best possible way to explain things to children, exact boring facts or imaginary stuff, please share your thoughts.

Edit :

I realize that, I haven’t made my self clear in the above post. So here is concise question that I have in mind.

Should we teach the children hard factual answers or give him/her a poetic answer?

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7 Responses to “What to explain?”


  1. 1 Ramu May 10, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Karthi –

    That’s why I always see that the Grand Parents are the right people to handle kids questions. They know that the kids needs entertaining and not educative responses.

    In my view, in a way providing a reply that will trigger their imagination would be better (though they are fallacies) than just providing them direct facts. Eventually when they will learn the facts when they reach right age.

    You are not the right fit for that, because you want the kid to be always intelligent in the competitive world instead of making him creative and poetic.

    That’s why in Western World people have Fairy Tales and in India we have Puranams, Ithihas, Panchathantra Stories etc. We are far advanced than any one in this field. Alas! no body recognizes that in the modern society…

    Ram.

  2. 2 united April 14, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I too used to face lots of such volleys from my niece. However, I always used to explain everything in detail either with the help of some diagrams or some experiment or using animations available on the web. If I was busy or if I find it hard to explain it to her immediately, I used to ask her for some time to frame my explanation. Whenever I was ready with an explanation, I used to tell it to her.

    Anyways in the case of rain, best thing to do is take the kid to a vessel of boiling water, show the steam and show him how it condenses if you hold a plate on top of the raising steam, and show him/her how the water droplets fall down once they condense.

    So the underlying thing here is : take your time, find an easy to understand explanation, tell it to the kid. This I guess, is always possible.

    • 3 Karthi April 14, 2009 at 11:08 am

      Dhruva, I know you would do that! But as I pointed to Jesvin, the question I have is should we give the child a factual scientific answer or spur his creativity with more creative way (poetic) which is scheme is better?

    • 4 Karthi April 14, 2009 at 11:15 am

      Thanks Dhruva, I need to resort to experiments to explain the principles, I will start with the experiment explaining rain.

  3. 5 jesvin April 6, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    All the steam gets to the “roof” of the sky as it could not go further up. As more steam comes in, it gets thicker and thicker, until it all falls down as rain. Gimme a better on if you can.

    I had a rule imposed by my mom that capped my questions per day to 25 which kinda made me disappointed. Then I used to be known as a know-it-all. But a question that left me stumped was a question from Google interview: “explain databases in three sentences as you would to a five-year-old”.

    You dont understand it very well if you cannot explain it to your grandma-Einstien

    And a ‘toon too: http://abstrusegoose.com/98

    • 6 Karthi April 6, 2009 at 9:18 pm

      Jesvin; the question I have question is what kind of answers enhances the creativity of the child? All my current answers to my son’s question has been very scientific and factual, in line with the cartoon. (I can’t say he understands everything, for example, now he knows that brain controls all his actions, moon has not it’s own light but the reflected light etc)

      Should I pursue telling him factual answers or trigger his creativity, may be in science or arts for that matter.

      Am in the same frequency with Einstein, on explaining things to kids, that has been one of my fav quote.

    • 7 Karthi April 6, 2009 at 9:24 pm

      Jesvin, May be the things are not clear in the conversation.
      In the movie, the father well versed scientist himself, at later point he avoids all the scientific explanation to kid and resorts to Marshmallow stuff.


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