Growing up, I was a very curious little boy. I strongly believe that it is this curiosity that has shaped me into who I am today.
As an adult, I have noticed that a lot of people seem to have closed their minds and hearts to everything that comes with being curious. Of course, this is a really sad thing to think about, but the good news is that it’s not too late for kids yet.There are things that can be done to foster curiosity in them.
Over the years, I have been watching my friends figure out this parenting thing with a lot of interest. They’ve had varying degrees of success in it.
While I’ll be the first to admit that every parenting style is different, I have come to learn that when it comes to curiosity, there is no way to “make” kids more curious than they are.
It is their own internal desire that pushes them to want to learn things. Kids that don’t have any external pressure pushing them to learn become more self-motivated to seek out new experiences.
This is why I believe that curiosity is an instinct. Babies are born curious.
They start life with an eagerness to discover and explore the world around them and to figure things out in the process.
You can see this in their desire to follow sounds, faces, and interesting colors with their eyes. As they grow, they start putting things in their mouths to find out what those things can do or how they taste.
In their toddler years, they start using tools, like using a stool to reach the countertop where a cookie is. By the age of two, they want to learn what it feels like to be in another person’s shoes. So, they’ll pretend to clean the house like mummy, drive a car like daddy, or scold their dolls like they get scolded.
But if curiosity is in-born, what can you do about it? Well, just like any other intrinsic skill, it can be nurtured. Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Encourage their natural interests
If you notice that something captures their imagination and attention, encourage it. If they are mesmerized with paint, introduce them to the wonderful world of art. Let them make colorful messes, and they’ll foster the skill on their own. If they prefer music, play it often for them, and dance together. If they like animals, get them books on animals and read them together.
2. Make their environment interesting
Babies spend almost all their waking hours in focused gazing. As they stare, the wheels are turning in their minds and they are building up their curiosity about their surroundings. Have pictures on the wall, place interesting objects within gazing distance, and let them watch the rest of the family go about their normal activities. Keep changing things up a bit by using different toys and objects to keep things fresh.
3. Get them interested in the world
When you take a walk outside, wonder aloud about why the sky is blue, why the stars twinkle or why the trees are so tall. This will make them curious about the same things. You should also let your child see you pursuing your own interests. It helps them learn that it is OK to go after something you like.
4. Answer their questions
Your child will have lots of questions. Answer them in an age appropriate manner. A three-year-old asking about where babies come from should get a different answer from a thirteen-year-old. Before you answer, ask them what their thoughts are on the subject first. And if you do not have the answer, it’s OK to admit it. This way, they’ll know that it’s ok not to have all the answers and that that is the basis of learning new things.
5. Encourage Open-Ended Play
A toy truck is a toy truck. It has to be used in a certain way. Boxes, craft materials, blocks, sand, pots, and pans, on the other hand, are open ended. They can be used in whatever way your child wants. This will help build their imagination. So, simply provide the tools and let them figure out what to do with them.
6. Go to the library together
Books are tickets to whole entire worlds that will amaze your curios little one. Start exposing them to books from a young age and they will enjoy reading throughout their lives. At the library, let them choose their own books. As long as they enjoy reading it, it won’t matter if it’s comic books or a science book.
7. Ask them open ended questions
Instead of asking them yes or no questions, make your questions open ended to allow your child to develop their thoughts and ideas and express their interests with their words. So, for example, instead of asking “Was school fun today?”, ask “What happened in school today?”
8. Redirect their interests instead of discouraging them
For instance, if your child is driving you crazy by constantly pouring water from a cup to the floor, instead of discouraging them outright, try to figure out why that activity is capturing their interest like is. Is there a safe and acceptable alternative that they can use instead? For example, you can transfer them to the backyard or the bathtub and let them keep playing with the water. Doing this will also help teach your child that there are acceptable ways of getting what they want, and when something doesn’t work out the first time, there are other options to explore.
Kids learn by being curious. When you nurture their curiosity, you turn them into lifelong learners. My family and I have found that these tips not only make the kids curious, but they also help the adults to stay curious and learn new things themselves.
Adults who have lost their curiosity and sense of wonder become jaded, uptight pessimists. Life becomes an endless exercise in futility. This is the last thing I want for my kids. That’s why it is your responsibility to do everything you can to give your children a rich, curious life where learning never ends. Good luck!