As a mother of a one-year-old and soon to be six-year-old, I can with definite certainty, and not needing any science to back me, say that children are born curious. They remain curious for as long as we foster that curiosity. Think of a baby: once they get out of the newborn stage, they are ready to explore. They constantly want to explore the world. They use their senses to experience the world. Much of their day is spent being curious! They find different ways to look at, taste, touch, and hear the things that interest them. It may be as simple as first banging their spoon accidentally on their high chair tray. They bang it, hear the sound, and do it again because their curiosity has been piqued and they like what they hear!
As our children get older, and they begin to understand what they should taste and what they should not, curiosity starts to take on other forms. Curiosity may not only come in the form of where they allow their play to go, but also with the adults and older siblings around them being constantly asked ‘why?’ Although ‘why’ can get quite annoying, and many parents including myself may try to find ways to shut down the ‘why’ question out of sheer exhaustion…it’s important to remind ourselves that many problems are solved and more efficient strategies found by individuals who dare to be curious and ask questions.
Our children need a safe space in which to be curious. When we encourage our children to be curious, whether it is reading books on topics of interest, making potions in the back yard, or simply asking questions, we are encouraging them to keep their minds active. We are moving them away from passive thinking and making them more active thinkers.
Children who are more curious are also more observant. Whether it be in their environment, or in the solving of a math problem, their curiosity encourages them to look at things from a different perspective.
So how exactly can you nurture curiosity in your children.
- Remember that children learn through play. Encourage unstructured play time in which they can follow their interests and spend time doing activities that peak their curiosity.
- Allow your child to lead. When playing with your child, allow them to take the lead so that you can encourage their curiosity.
- Model curiosity. Spend times sharing with your child things that pique your curiosity. This may be on a walk outside, or while watching a television program. Think out loud and wonder.
- Answer their questions. Try your best to answer their questions in an age appropriate way. You may not have all the answers, and this is fine, but we are lucky to live in an era where information can be found extremely quickly. Perhaps make a point of looking up the information together.
- Ask open ended questions. Stimulate your child’s imagination and thought process by asking open-ended questions. Encourage active thinking and the making of connections.
- Redirect, don’t discourage. It isn’t uncommon to find a child going down a road of curiosity that you are not comfortable with. Find ways to redirect interests rather than discourage.