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Kids Think The Darndest Thoughts

When you were growing up, did you believe something that you later learned — as an adult — wasn't true?

We tossed that question to the Internet and answers came flooding in – more than 7,000. (Thank you all.) Turns out, many people had endlessly entertaining thoughts as children.

Certain ideas popped up over and over: Teachers live at school. Quicksand will swallow me up. Factory smoke stacks are cloud-making machines.

Perhaps misconception – like misery – loves company.

Childish Behavior

The concept of childhood beliefs has been discussed all over the place, including BuzzFeed, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and This American Life. There's an entire website dedicated to collecting people's childish thoughts: www.iusedtobelieve.com.

But it still deserves re-examination.

Children's logic isn't all that different from that of adults, says Paul L. Harris, an education professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It is likely, he says, that a child's way of thinking is – like an adult's – information-based. But much narrower.

Children "put two and two together and sometimes make five," he says. "These ideas that children come up with, if you probe a little bit, can probably make sense in the light of the restricted information base that they have."

And so, here are a few of the childish beliefs – beliefs based on restricted information, of course – culled from our Facebook callout:


"We were a Jewish family in the South, and I always thought the cover at the top of our chimney was so Santa would know not to come into our house." — Todd Koren

"Because I went to a Jewish summer camp from the time I was three and Methodist Sunday school the rest of the year, I thought Judaism was a summer religion and Christianity a winter one." — Katey Brannum


"I used to think being carried over the threshold after getting married automatically made the woman pregnant." — Jill E. Anderson

"I am one of four kids. When I was around 11 or 12, I asked my mom if she and dad only had sex four times. Her response? 'You mean in one night?' That ended that curiosity!" — Maria Martinez Johnson


"I thought all Main Streets were the same street and you could get anywhere if you followed the street for long enough." — Jason Michael

"I thought "Yonder" was a real place. Like an actual town or state." — Dustin Hughes


"When I saw signs stating "Lots for Sale," I thought people were selling a lot of stuff." — Barbara Susienka

"I thought that when my dad had the graveyard shift he literally had to work in a graveyard." — Raymond John Ford


"I used to think that the crust of bread had more vitamins in it and I would force myself to eat it even though I didn't want to." — Krista Reiman

"My dad told me the ice cream truck [driver] only plays music when he finally sold out." — Jarrod Anderson Derr


"I thought all cats were female and all dogs were male." — Nathan W. Crabtree

"When I was a child I thought sea horses were made-up creatures." — Maggie Parks Dickow


"I thought laugh tracks were from televisions recording in a different home each night, and I would always laugh very loudly in case my house was being featured." — Megan Jeyifo

"I thought that all babies were born on Labor Day and that our parents just picked a day on which to celebrate our birthdays so all birthday parties weren't on the same day." — Angie Clifton Marshall

Reality Check

"I thought that all grown-ups knew what they were talking about, and that they were always right." — Vicki Moncrieff Rose

"That when I grew up if I did what I was supposed to, life would be easy and always fun. Silly kids." — Vicci Petty

"On a more serious note. I thought when you grew up, things just automatically worked out. I would grow up, get married, have a job, pay the bills, have children, have a car, etc. Talk about misconceptions ... These things — absolutely — do not just happen, just because you grow up". — Stanley Ryburn

The Protojournalist: Experimental storytelling for the LURVers – Listeners, Users, Readers, Viewers – of NPR. @NPRtpj

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lauren Katz
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