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Your Starter for Ten

When was the last time you asked a child a truly profound question?

The comedian Joe Lycett recently wrote a Guardian column in which he mentions asking a ten year old girl, to whom he is close, “What do you think art is?” She replies, “It’s trust. If you trust something’s good, then it is.” Brilliant. As Joe says, that is exactly what art is.

I was thoroughly inspired by this, and rather ashamed to have to admit to myself that it’s something I don’t do often enough. I resolved to start asking children more profound questions, more often. But then I had to pull myself up. Why? Why did I want to do this? 

It reminded me of a lesson learned when I first started teaching. It’s all very well using stories and puppets and all the bells and whistles, but if all the creativity is with you, and not with the children, then what exactly are they getting out of it? All interaction with children serves them best if you leave space for them to fill with their own ideas, and, of course, to voice them. 

It’s so tempting to fill in all the gaps and to inflict your adult perspective and knowledge onto the conversation, but this is not always the most beneficial learning experience for the child. Sometimes, it’s better to acknowledge that you don’t have the definitive answer to everything, that you may have an idea or a theory, but that actually theirs is of equal value and worth.

So, yes, I will be trying to ask children profound questions more frequently. The purpose will be for them to consider their opinions and to find ways of expressing them. I get to find out what they think, how their brains are working and to hopefully discover some of the nuances of their understanding and appreciation of the world around them. And maybe have my own thoughts altered by their insights.

Here are some I thought I might start with:

What are dreams?

What is life for?

Where do ideas come from?

What is out there, beyond the sky?

Why do you like some people and not others?

I’d be interested to hear of any responses you’ve had to these or other similar conceptual puzzles.