Curiosity is one of the foundational abilities of a lifelong learner.
While children are born with an innate sense of curiosity, we, as parents, can encourage and cultivate it further. With these 5 simple tips, ignite curiosity in your children’s hearts.
1. Encourage Children to Ask Questions
When children begin to gain awareness of the world around them, the question “Why?” makes it’s way to the forefront of their mind.
“Why is the sky blue?”
“Why do I need to wear a jacket outside?”
“Why does Mommy get to stay up later than I do?”
Studies have found that the average pre-school aged child will ask between 100 and 300 questions per day! Answering simple questions every couple minutes can become exhausting and tedious; however, it is in your child’s interest to answer their questions to the best of your ability.
And when you do not know the answer, encourage your child to seek it out through research or experimenting.
In addition to answering questions, take it a step further by asking questions of your own such as:
- Why do you think that might be?
- How do you feel in that situation?
- How do you think this happens?
- What do you think causes this?
This allows room for a healthy discussion on the subject. Rather than putting emphasis on always getting the “right” answer, teach your child that learning is a process of discovery, trial, and error.
So... Why is the Sky Blue?
At a point in your child’s life, they may ask the famous question Why is the sky blue?
Rather than responding with “Because that’s just what color it is”, impress them by learning the answer yourself (it’s actually quite fascinating).
2. Notice & Praise Curiosity
We live in a society that only rewards children once they’re accomplished something. Rather than focusing solely on the end result, we should notice and praise curiosity in the act.
Make a habit of praising your child’s inquisitiveness and perseverance, rather than just the outcome of their actions.
Avoid constant criticism or feedback. In order for our children to thrive as life-long learners, they need to learn to take their own initiative. Even with the best of intentions, parents can get in the way of that by pushing their children towards the correct answer.
When you do notice your child demonstrating their curiosity, acknowledge it and gently guide them further into their exploration.
For example, you can say, “I noticed that you’re working very hard at solving this problem. I’m impressed by your perseverance. Let’s explore it further.”
Verbally praise the progress, but allow the discovery to be its own reward! This will motivate children to develop their curiosity further. Not to mention, it will further develop abstract thinking and problem-solving skills.
3. Unstructured Play Time
Unstructured, or open-ended, play time is a great way to encourage curiosity in children.This type of play gives children the freedom to explore, create and discover without a predetermined outcome. It allows children to establish their own limits.
Unlike toys that are meant to be used a certain way, open-ended toys include boxes, blocks, water, sand, or any material that be used imaginatively.
While structured time often focuses on an objective learning outcome, unstructured play allows the child to lead, using their improv and imagination skills. Both structured and unstructured play time are equally important.
When your child engages in unstructured play, you may notice that they have entered a new and distant world. Wide-eyed and undisturbed, your child has entered into, what is known as, a state of flow.
This state occurs when we are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction. Sometimes even time feels as if it had been altered.
As adults, we often access this state when we are deeply focused on a creative task, when we exercise, or when we engage in simple day-to-day tasks such as doing dishes.
In this 2004 TED Talk, speaker Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi concludes that people find satisfaction and meaning in activities that bring about a state of flow.
For children, entering into this state of flow is important because it gives the thinking brain a rest. They are able to focus and concentrate with ease. And most importantly, a flow state decreases stress while increasing confidence.
So give your children the space and room to engage in unstructured, open-ended play time. You might even enter into their world. It can do you some good as well.
4. Try Something New
Curiosity becomes stagnant when we fall into patterns of doing the same, old habits over and over again. Ignite excitement in your children’s hearts by inviting them to habitually engage in new activities.
Create an atmosphere where children feel comfortable and confident engaging in something new. Perhaps it’s playing a new game, eating new food, or meeting new people.
An appropriate amount of novelty and uncertainty will help to nurture an inquiring mind.
5. Explore in Nature
Encourage children to learn through active exploration in nature. Allow them to get their feet and hands dirty as they observe and discover the beautiful and created world they live in.
Here are some ideas to spark your child’s inquisitee spirit while outside:
- Search for animal tracks
- Climb a tree or build a fort with fallen branches
- Dig in the dirt or sand
- Watch for birds and discover their qualities (colors, size, wing span, ect)
- Listen quietly for a minute and discuss the different sounds