Our 5-year old lives in a world of exploration and curiosity. All the “What’s? “How’s, and Why’s?” has piqued my curiosity (and yes, has also led me to be absolutely stumped for a response at times). Sounds familiar? I love that she is curious and I want to nurture and encourage this curiosity.
It’s the simple stuff that makes the biggest impact. There is a treasure trove of exploration opportunities everywhere. A park, garden, even the kitchen are great places to start your exploration. Instead of discouraging exploration, redirect your child.
When our daughter wants to build a volcano that has glitter and food coloring in it, we take the experiment out to the yard. The kitchen is reserved for messes that are easier to clean up!
As a parent my natural instinct makes me want to continually give guidance. However, it is best to allow kids to explore the world themselves. This allows kids to discover more, be more creative and learn more – providing explicit direction has been found to discourage spontaneity and discovery. (If their safety is threatened you absolutely must intervene).
Even before our daughter could properly form words, I would ask her questions about things we saw. I would allow her to make observations of things that she will not necessarily have noticed:
“Look at the birds in that tree. What colors are they? What do you think they are chirping to each other?” “Do you see the log next to the tree? I wonder what lives there?” “What pretty marks you have on your fingers.”
This encouraged her to point to things and make observations herself. Observations have also led an improved vocabulary and resulted in a lot more questions that require answers.
Never dismiss questions. While it is easy to answer the question asked by your child (or look it up over the internet), encourage your child to think about possible answers. For example, our daughter recently asked me:
“Why do plants have roots?”
I asked her:
“Why do you think plants have roots?”
She responded by saying it is for them to get their food and water. The response might not be complete but it allowed her think independently. I had follow-up questions for her about plants and their root systems. We spent some time talking about the root system and only after doing some independent thinking did we dive into scientific books and internet searches.
Enthusiasm is contagious. Somebody who loves what they do will be enthusiastic about it. Try thinking about experts within your network of friends and family. Consider that people are not linear and can be experts in more than one field. Encourage your child to write down a few questions for that expert related to the subject of their curiosity. When going on field trips or during a doctor’s visit encourage your child to ask questions from the experts.
During a recent annual check-up our five year old asked her pediatrician why she had a stethoscope, why she looked into her mouth, why she knocked on her knees…She left the clinic feeling a lot more knowledgeable about her body, and was also more curious to find out more about the human body. So we now own a human body figurine and books on the human body too!
If you want to find out more about curiosity and its link with academic achievement, I highly recommend this 1994 article by George Lowenstein.
Know of other tips that we can help encourage and nurture curiosity in children? We love hearing from you. Write to us!
The internet is a quagmire of fact, opinion and emotion. Read the follow-on article on useful websites to use for encourage and answer your kids questions.