Do 4 Year Old Kids Really Ask 437 Questions A Day, Or Is That A Myth?

I’ve written many times about the memes that get shared on Facebook by parenting pages1, mothers who blog2, and mothers who have their own business and sell online from home3. I have pulled many of these apart and criticised their rampant sexism towards or exclusion of fathers, or the need for every mother to share their love of wine, coffee and bacon.

Around Oscar time, this was shared by almost every parent I know

Around Oscar time, this was shared by almost every parent I know

I have even made reference recently to the fact that the same memes get shared by every single page, over and over again so that the same meme keeps popping up in my news feed on a regular basis. I’m a little like Rain Man in the sense that I have a pseudo savant syndrome with the ability to remember the most inane things. The reason I mention this is because I have this crazy ability to remember that certain pages I follow share the same meme semi-regularly and I often wonder if the person or people who administer that page know this themselves.

Just this week however, a meme that I have seen shared many times over the years that I’ve been on Facebook has been shared by what seems like a dozen pages in the last few days. When a new meme is created and it goes viral, no doubt, like me, you see it get shared by everyone (like the one about Frozen I have shown here). But the one that has been repeatedly shared this week isn’t new and isn’t related to a recent news story or viral blog post.

And today I saw a new variant of this which inspired me to write about it because I believe that the fact suggested is a myth, or at the very least, it’s exaggerated.

This was version shared by a parenting site today;

toddler asks 437 questions per day 3

This is the version that has been shared a million times;

toddler asks 437 questions per day 5

And here are a few more that I found when doing a Google search;

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No matter who creates it and on what platform or meme creator it’s made using, the same number for this fact about the inquisitive minds of a 4-year-old child is used, and that number is always 437. But is this true or is this just a random number that someone came up with once and others have just run with it? I think the latter is the case.

I spent most of my lunch break as well as downtime waiting to see a client this morning and waiting for clearance to drop of a carton at a trucking depot googling this to find the news story or study on this. I found some saying approximately 200 questions are asked, some that suggest nearly 300 are asked, and various other numbers somewhere in between, or even lower than 200 times.

If I narrow down the search by using the key words of “437 questions” and “4-year-old” Google returns heaps of sites with this “fact” but most are Facebook pages and the search result has picked up the file name of the meme in question, or other pages like Tumblr and Pintrest where the meme has also been shared a thousand times. There are even two videos on YouTube that are shown in the search results and I am sure they were titled “On average, a 4-year-old child asks 437 questions a day” just so that they could pick up clicks from people who have done a Google search just as I have to verify this claim.

So let’s take a look at the claim the same way that Mythbusters would.

toddler asks 437 questions per day 7

Jamie “Well Adam, today we have a doozy of a myth to bust. Have you seen that meme which states that the average 4 year old child asks 437 questions per day? Is that even possible?”

Adam “I’ve seen this Jamie. I think the best way to test this is to do some maths…”

Narrator “While Jamie goes off to get a pen, Adam goes and gets some paper and a calculator.”

Adam “I think what we need to do first is to decide how many hours a night a 4 year old should sleep so we can work out how many waking hours in a day that 4 year old would have.”

Jamie “I’ve already done that Adam and the results have come in.”

Narrator (over video montage of Jamie googling the question earlier in the day) “Jamie sat down at the computer and used many sources from around the Internet and found out that it is suggested that a 4 year old should sleep 12 hours each night.”

Jamie “According to parenting websites and forums it is suggested that 4 year olds sleep for 12 hours. Knowing there is 24 hours in a day, I simply subtracted 12 from 24 and worked out that a 4 year old child would be awake for 12 hours.”

Adam “That’s some mighty fine calculations there Jamie.”

Jamie “Thanks Adam. But wait, there’s more calculations to be done. Let’s take those 437 questions that the myth suggests and find out how many times an hour those 4 year olds are asking these questions.”

Adam “Okay. I’m inputting 437 into the calculator and pressing the division button followed by the number 12 being the hours in the day and now I’m pressing the equals button. The result is…”

Narrator “Adam shows Jamie the calculator with a figure of 36.41666666666667 showing on the LCD screen.”

Adam “I think it would be best to round that figure up to two decimal places. That gives us 36.42 times in an hour that the questions are asked.”

Jamie “I’m wondering what the frequency of those questions are.”

Adam “I’ve done the calculations already.”

Narrator “Adam entered the number 60 into the calculator for the number of minutes in an hour and divided this by the amount of questions the myth suggests are asked each hour giving the result on the calculator of 1.647446457990115.”

Jamie “Of course we need to work out what 0.647446457990115 of a minute equates to.”

Adam “Done. That’s approximately 39 seconds. So the frequency of the questions being asked is every one minute and 39 seconds…”

Jamie “Or every 99 seconds…”

Adam “That doesn’t seem feasible.”

Jamie “I’m with you on that Adam. When you consider that a 4 year old can be rather independent and is likely to spend time on their own playing with their toys, the amount of hours spent with at least one parent would be reduced and the frequency of questions in the remaining hours would be reduced. If you factor in television time that the average 4 year old will undoubtedly watch, then the hours in a day in which a 4 year old child might interact with their child is reduced.”

Narrator “Whilst the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that young children are not exposed to more than two hours of television per day, studies show that on average, children of that age are watching twice as much television.”

Jamie “We could factor those hours into our equations and use two hours of unsupervised play time and four hours of television time reducing the amount of hours left to interact with a parent down to six hours.”

Adam “If we assume that a parent is watching television with the child or is in the vicinity of the child watching television for half of their viewing time, then there’s the possibility of the child asking questions during that time. Let’s also assume that the child may ask the parent for some assistance in finding a certain toy, or building or dismantling Lego sets so we could add an further hour. Let’s take those hours back up to nine hours for asking questions.”

Jamie “437 questions asks over nine hours means 48.56 questions per hour instead of 36.42 with a frequency of one minute and 14 seconds or every 74 seconds that a question is asked.”

Adam “I’m afraid we’ll have to call that busted Jamie.”

Jamie “Oh, I am so with you on that Adam.”

Narrator “Another myth busted by Jamie and Adam.”

mythbusters bustedSo what do you think? Does the meme use an exaggerated arbitrary figure to make it it look like parents are fielding more questions than possible so they can seem like Supermoms and Superdads? Do you have kids that ask lots of questions? How many questions would you suggest they ask each day?

 
1. I’ve written parenting pages, but as many dads can attest, these are mostly aimed at mothers only.
2. Mothers who blog is an alternative name to the Mom/Mum or Mummy/Mommy Blogger title as many mothers take umbrage to to those terms.
3. Mumpreneurs or Mompreneurs.
 
 
 


Categories: About your kids, Education, Family Relationships, Kids and Education, Social Media, Teaching Children

29 replies

  1. Some heavy hitting reporting here. I think you’ve certainly busted that myth. What myth will you take down next?

  2. I get that 437 is probably a deliberately and wildly exaggerated figure. However, I wonder why it appears to be so widely used rather than any ithet number.

  3. Nice article. I’d be willing to bet my almost 4 year-old asks at least 400 questions a day. She rapid fires them off one after the other, often asking four or five questions before I’ve even had a chance to fully comprehend or answer the first one. I keep thinking I should get a clicker-type counter to count them. It’s exhausting and astonishing how many questions. Thankfully we know a seven year-old who comes over often and fields some of them!

    • Did you ever do this study? Did you use a clicker to count the amount of questions asked per day by your 4yo?

      • I attempted to record every question asked by my 5-year-old in a day ( the version of the meme I saw had 5-year-olds). My critical error was in experiment set-up. Instead of writing questions down, once she caught on to this it inevitably led to more questions, “what are you writing? Can I read it? Can I see? Why not?” a stealth ticker counter is the way to go. We got to 73 questions in an hour and a half before I couldn’t take anymore.

        I think the young child’s advantage here is the quick-fire, three-letter question: “Why? Whywhywhywhy?” that gives the hint of credence to the myth. 437 is in all likelihood a number someone pulled out of their ass that has stuck to this meme for good though!

      • And if you’re pulling a number from anywhere, where better a place, right? Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed that.

    • Totally mine too! It’s one after the other, and I would think “why?” counts too. What’s the glue for? .. my answer… “why?” … my answer… “why?”… “but what’s the glue for?”… seriously I just answered that!

  4. Great to see involved dads! Way to go.

  5. I found your blog as I tried to find out how many questions kids ask each day. I seem to recall reading an article on this topic, but didn’t save it. I did find this article, but haven’t had a chance to check it out:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9959026/Mothers-asked-nearly-300-questions-a-day-study-finds.html

  6. Depending if you count the repetitive “Mom? Mom? Mom?” And “Daaaad? Dad? Daddy?” that all children seem to think need to be said every 30 seconds… for absolutely no reason whatsoever at least 3/4 of the time… I say your myth is not busted quite yet!

  7. I am pretty positive my 4 year old boy asks 400 questions a day. He constantly talks, from the moment he wakes up at 7:30AM until the moment he goes to sleep at 7:30-8PM. And any question you can possibly think of and why, why, why, all day every single day. I do not think your math calculations have busted this, whatsoever, Come hang out with my 4 year old for a day. 🙂

  8. My 4 year old boy for sure asks at least 400 questions a day. It is unbelievable. From the moment he wakes up at 7:30AM to the moment he goes to sleep at 8PM he is talking. Why, why, why, why asks anything about everything and nothing. it’s insane. Your math calculations are totally believable. it. Is. Possible.
    Time to go to bed and get ready for yet another exhausting day of at least 400 questions about absolutely nothing! “Why is the sky blue” “why do people drive on the highway” “how does a car work” “why are their exits” “why do we eat lunch” “when are we going to the store” “what time is 3 o’clock” “can I have a drink” “can I have a snack” “where is such and such” “why do we wash clothes” “what are you doing, mommy” “where are my socks” “why do we brush our teeth” “can we go to the pool” All. Day. Long.

  9. I’m sure my son asks a ? just about every minute and a half…sometimes its Mommy in ? form multiple times in a matter of seconds LOL and like DIY my son NEVER stops talking… Even when he is playing there are noises and words and even questions coming out of his mouth.. Then the questions become aimed at us. Really I’m sure I could believe he asks about that many ?’s a day easy especially when you think about how much can be said in just a span of 30 seconds.

  10. Don’t complain about questions. My five year old autistic son asks no questions a day. I cry inside every time I see an article like this.

  11. Well instead of attempting to bust a myth you could just site actual empirical studies. Not 437 but also not far off from it.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9959026/Mothers-asked-nearly-300-questions-a-day-study-finds.html

  12. Haha my 4 year old son may not ask 437 questions a day but I can promise you between questions and comments it’s easily 800 a day! On weekends I am with him from the moment he wakes til the moment he sleeps at night and he easily doubles 437, no question 😄

  13. I think it depends on the child, my 4yo son asks a lot of questions and I answer every one of them, I am a stay at home mum and my husband just doesn’t know how I am not insane but I will do the same with my baby girl when she starts talking, my son has learnt so much from it, he reads and writes so please as annoying as it can be answer correctly and just enjoy them being inquisitive 🙂

  14. My 5 year old does one every 99 seconds easy. More like every 45 seconds from the time he wakes up till the time he falls asleep at night. Maybe kids like mine bring up the average for the regular kids. ADHD medication helps.. a little.

  15. My 3.5 years old asks less than that, but some are interesting.
    “Why is space almost all black?”
    “Why do things get colder in time?”

    Not easy to answer without Olbers or entropy …

  16. The more the better :). How nice to see their gears churning as they absorb knowledge and make sense all that’s happening around them.
    Never ignore a question and never give out to a child for asking why. A sense of wonder and awe makes them so happy.
    My 3 year old reddens my ear every day with why’s and what’s, but man do I love it :).

    I read in an article lately that by the time a child reaches 8 grade nowadays, they ask on average 3 questions. How sad is this? Our society and education systems dictating knowledge and quenching our childrens natural curiosity and sense of wonder.

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