Skip Past the Default Explanations

I had to laugh when I read this Arthur C. Clarke quote. It sounds so much like something a young reader would say. It seems like often the difference between a child and an adult is that adults take for granted the “logic” behind how we do things and what we call things. A child? Nothing is sacred and no assumption is left unexamined.

Why Earth vs Ocean?

Why is our left hand our left hand vs our wrong hand?

Why don’t we call it jelly and peanut butter?

Why? Why? Why?

You have to be sure to put assumptions aside and think beyond the ordinary when it is time to explain concepts to children. When my son’s first grade class went to our local Art Musuem one boy was terrified. Why? The teacher told him there was a mummy and he had seen Scooby Doo and the Mummy. The teacher tried to reassure him by explaining what a mummy is. Nope. That didn’t work.

Hmm. What is absolutely harmless? I thought about this a while and called him over.

Did the boy know what a craisin is? You bet. A mummy is just a people craisin. He had to think about it but he got what a craisin was as compared to a cranberry. That made a mummy compared to a person a lot easier to understand. And more than a little ridiculous.

And what little boy doesn’t want to tell his mom that a mummy is like a craisin?

There are so many concepts and processes that adults, including writers, end up explaining to children. And often we go with a default explanation that has been used time and time again.

How far is the Earth from the sun?

How big is a blue whale?

How much do great white sharks eat?

How much poop does a horse make in a day? A week? A month?

When you have to explain a concept to your reader, find an explanation that is kid friendly. Come at things from a slightly different direction. You’ll grab the attention of not only your editor but your readers as well.