Submit your toddler's science questions!

When I was guesting on BoingBoing last spring, my friends' son Will wanted to know whether cockroaches had a penis. I enjoyed tracking down the surprisingly complicated answer, so I thought I'd keep the theme going now that I'm on full-time. I'm hoping to answer a Science Question from a Toddler once a month, though that depends on me getting questions. Which brings me to this request: If a smallish child you know has a science question--on any topic--send it to me. I'll do my best to answer.

The child does not have to be your own. Questions do not have to be cute or "Kids Say the Darndest Things-ish" in any way. They do not even have to be current. (Baby boomers, got a query that's been nagging at you since 1975? I don't care if the toddler is now in their 30s, send the question!) All I'm looking for are things you can't answer off the top of your head and don't feel like researching yourself. Easy stuff!

Check out the first item: Do Turtles Have Eyelashes?


  1. I have a question that stumped me. My four-year-old daughter, Aurelia, asked me why the earth rotates.

  2. From my 5 yr old boy:
    Why do I have nipples if I’m not going to get boobies?
    Why has Daddy got an arm beard?
    Where’s Mummy’s willy? Did she lose it?

  3. He’s no longer a toddler, but this morning, as I was walking him to school, my 7 year old asked me “How fast is the universive expanding?”

    I felt this to be unfair.

    1. While mammals have separate canals for urine and feces (urethra and rectum, respectively) birds have a single orifice. They don’t process the solid and liquid waste separately. The white stuff is the nitrogenous waste normally expelled in mammals as urine but semi-solidified in birds. Put simply, the white stuff is the bird pee.


  4. This is from my four year old, who like all little kids, has an innate fascination with dinosaurs. “Was there ever a dinosaur that was an omnivore?” It got me wondering, we always hear about the plant eaters and the meat eaters, but surely the divisions can’t be so neat and tidy.

  5. @lekfowle: The other day my four-year-old son also asked me why the earth rotates on its axis (at the end of a long “why are days shorter in winter?” conversation.) Maybe we need Maggie to do a toddler astronomy course. Or at least get our kids together for a playdate :)

  6. re: toddler astronomy course

    I think a way to explain basic Newtonian principles (and hence why the Earth rotates, etc.) in a way that the majority of toddlers would understand would be a truly wonderful thing. I really have no idea how smart the average toddler is, though. Not as smart as an adult chimp? What’s the age range for “toddler?” Do chimps wonder if cockroaches have penises? Actually, that’s my science question: do chimps wonder if cockroaches have penises?

  7. fun starts when they figure out how to turn a question around + then why back with your answer, it’s a war of attrition after that.

  8. Back during my early teen years, as a babysitter, I had a kid ask me if ghosts poop.

    I don’t believe science can currently answer that one.

    1. @foxtails LOL… Thanks. Those dancing ghosts sure look happy. I guess a hearty BM lightens up even the most insubstantial of entities.

  9. Do crabs poop? How much does the sky weigh? Those are just two from my kid (3.5 yrold) that I enjoyed recently (and didn’t answer very well).

  10. I just ran this open invitation to ask any science question passed my little daughter, and she asks: “What types of body cells have other cells in them?” Funny, since I never imagined this. Do they even exist? I know that some organelles were once bacteria (e.g., mitocondria and chloroplasts), so some did at one point, but I don’t know the answer to her question.

  11. Do you think…
    that George Bush…
    is circumcised?

    as quoted in a Hampshire College graduate speech, spring 2005

  12. I’m now 23, but as a child, I always wondered what color (if any at all) blind people see. Basically, what does not seeing anything look like? Just blackness?

  13. My 6-year old son has a question related to animals:

    – Can animals communicate with each other, say monkey and lion? How about animals in the same species, i.e. orangutans and gorillas?

    – Can animals of the same kind raised in different continents communicate with each other? i.e. Lion in Central Park with Lion in Africe?

  14. 3 yo when talking about visiting Grammy in California:

    “Are there sharks at the ocean?” – Yes.
    “But they can’t come in the house” – Oh, no sharks can’t leave the water, they can’t walk.
    “Why?” – They don’t have legs.
    Very long pause
    “Why?” – I did my best, but “They just didn’t evolve that way” is a bit lacking.

    Also, yesterday she asked “What’s under our skin” and I asked her to feel her arm and I asked “What does it feel like is under there?” and she said excitedly “Tomato sauce!”

  15. I’m told that I asked my grandma (while sitting in my carseat in the back of her yellow VW bug) barely old enough to talk… “Grandma, what makes dirt.” She tells me she answered “God did.” Although it’s a fair answer, what’s your take?

  16. Funny, we keep a running list of science-realted questions on our chalkboard. We record them there when we don’t have time to look up the answers right away. So I’ll grab the one that’s currently at the top of the list:

    Sam, my four-year-old scientician, would like to know why poop is brown.

    I would be so humbly grateful if you researched this for me, because, frankly, I’m afraid to type the word “poop” into Google. I fear what the internet wants to show me.


  17. When I was a wee tot I asked my severely religious grandmother where do babies come from. Her response was ‘the birth canal’.

    Smooth, very smooth.

    For the better part of my childhood, I had the mental image of swaddled babies floating in Venetian canal boats. I couldn’t reconcile that for the longest time…..

  18. My 5 year old son asked me what the last number was. I told him I didn’t know – that there was always one more number and it never ended. Infinity isn’t easy to explain to a 5 yr. old.

  19. “How do we talk?” – 3 year old

    As in how do sounds come out of us into words. Describing a voice box and air and vibrations is only part of it I think.

  20. I can answer the question in comment #20, “How do you stop the wind?”

    Buy a nice kite and go out to the park to fly it. The wind will stop. The day will become still and calm.

    So here’s a followup question, “Where does the wind go when you get to the park with your kite?”

  21. My then 2 year old son asked my mother out of the blue: “What’s the difference between smoke and steam?”

  22. hmmmm I stumped my first science teacher with- if water boils at a hundred degree’s, how do puddles evaporate?

    and if only the queen and king ant breed how dies natural selection work for the other ants?

  23. My 4 yr old asked me “why are we here and why do we have this world?”

    It’s probably b/c god was never discussed and she had never stepped inside a church.

  24. Here’s one that I loved, but left me stumped. We were walking in the park, by a pond. There were fish, and my then 3-year-old asked:

    Do fish know about us?


  25. I have had to explain a lot of things to my 4 year old lately but tend to go into way too much detail. Answering ‘what is a time tunnel?’ launched me into a description of multiple dimensions and universes.

    The latest questions was ‘how did god make penguins?’ I would love a nice toddler-friendly answer that went into evolution rather than religion.

  26. My son is 9 now, but I used to feel like I needed a PhD to answer his questions.
    Just a few of my favorites from the ages of 3 to 5:
    “How do clocks know what time it is?”
    “Does God have a belly button?”
    “When I was in your tummy, did you get food on me?”

  27. My Four year old boy asked me out of the blue.
    “Do Dinosaurs have nipples”?????
    I should have watch jurasic Park because i couldn’answer that one.

  28. I was dropping some nail parings one by one into a basin of water and noticed that they rock back and forth as they fall. They always fall curve side down, and the shorter the curve of the nail, the faster it rocked. Why?

  29. My 4 year old wants to know how trees grow roots without hurting the roots. I would like to show him with rocks and a buried balloon that inflates but it seems clumsy and prone to failure.

  30. My 3 year old would like to know if crabs have willies (penises) which makes for some interesting google responses! Does anyone know?

  31. The last time that we went to Mammoth cave the guide told us that the creatures down there lose all pigment due to no need for it and the complete darkness. My son proceeded to ask me if these creatures blood was still red. We asked the guide and she had no idea. Does the iron in the blood still make it red or does it lose it’s pigment over the years as well?

    1. No we don’t move much in our sleep because our bodies go into a semi paralisis state (to stop ourselves from getting up and hurting ourselves by acting out our dreams) … Did you also know that the dream/sleep pattern of a new mother is more like that of a baby than an adult – clever little feature of hormones ‘ay!

  32. Plants do photosynthesis thanks to sunlight, but If leave a plant under a light bulb, will it do the same thing ?

  33. My daughter and I watched a program on crocodiles and saw that they were unable to close their mouths if their noses were continually tapped with a stick. She would like to know if the same thing has been tested on sharks?

  34. As a very young toddler, I asked my mother’s pregnant belly “hello baby, is it dark in there?” What does a baby see in the womb?

  35. A query I found myself wondering as an adolescent and recently wondered again; Did cavemen get zits?

    I think the answer is no because they didn’t have the same oily/sugary diet we do. But then, when is the first recorded instance of a zit?

  36. My three-year-old just asked me “where does blood come from?” Where/how in your body is it made?

  37. My just turned 5year old preschooler Zoey asked (while sitting at
    the table eating lunch), “So Mrs. Brenda, do spider’s pee and where do they pee?”

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