While recently in Seattle (spot the CAST reference!) my lady-wife and I had a little time for sight-seeing and visiting and what not. A friend of the daughter and her husband live in the area with their two children, aged 9 months and 3 years. So, on touching base to say "hello" we get invited over for an evening - and jump at the chance.
We brought over a pecan pie fresh from a Cajun place down at Pioneer Sqaure, downtown (amazing food by the way - and the pie was straight from the oven) and a couple of bottles of wine and age appropriate presents for the two children. While visiting with the daughter's friend and playing with the kids (waiting for her husband to come home) I found myself engaged in an informative mentoring session with the 3 year old - Aidan.
Brilliant kid. You can tell his parents are terribly bright and spend a ton of time with him.
Now, most people with children, or have ever had dealings with children, will know that there is a key word in every 2 and 3 year old's vocabulary: "Why?"
Well, not Aidan. He looked right at us and asked "What happens?" Well, sometimes he said "What happened?" but he did so in the right context.
For example, a ballon popped "What happened?" "Well, I think it bumped against a stick or a pricker in the grass and that popped the balloon." (We were playing in the yard with a balloon.) "What happens?" "Well, sometimes if a balloon touches something sharp that can pop the balloon." "Oh."
So then it was time for him to play with his hard-hat and be a builder. "Can you build me a big building?" "Yup." (he leaves then comes back) "Is it done?" "Yup" "Great. Can you build me a barn now?" (he goes away and comes back.) "Is it done?" "Yup." "Great! Can you get some hay and straw and get a cow and a horse and some chickens for the barn?" "What happens?" "Well, then the animals can live in the nice bard you built." "Oh. What happens?"
About that time, Dad got home and Aidan went to go play with HIM until dinner was ready.
The rest of the evening and on the drive back to the hotel, that stuck with me. Not "Why" but the next best question a tester can ask: "What happens?"