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Nurturing Curiosity in Kids
By Coreen Soh . April 2017
“Why is the sky blue?”, “Why is the grass green?”, and “Why are the clouds white?”, “Why, why, why….”
Sounds familiar? Have you once heard these from your child? The world is full of wonders…and when babies are born, they are full of curiosity for the world. What happens thereafter? Have we noticed that the level of curiosity in a child seems to diminish as he progresses? Is it because the child is learning more and thus, things seemed to be less interesting? Most likely not. One reason, I believe, is that, too much adult-directed activities and instructions begin to undermine their autonomy and competence, thus decreasing their level of intrinsic motivation and curiosity.
The child is often full of awe of the things around them. They have endless questions on why things are the way they are. Sometimes, catching us adults dumbfounded because we simply do not have the answers for every question asked. A good example is the question about the blue sky. We take for granted that the sky is blue and probably do not have the time to think about the reason.
- ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR CHILD’S QUESTION
Nurturing their curiosity starts with acknowledging their questions. Acknowledging is not the same as providing an answer. Acknowledging their question means to let them know that we hear the question, we are thinking about it and we would like to find out the answers together with them. And it is perfectly fine to let them know that parents do not necessarily have the answers to everything. Refrain from reprimanding children when they have questions. That will discourage them from being curious.
- GIVE THEM TIME
Giving time to children to delve into concepts or topics is important. It is not sufficient to spoon-feed children with lots of information. Focus on depth rather than breadth. We should give them time to ponder, reflect, and think so that their competence can be developed. With an increase in competence, they can be more self-motivated to learn new things.
- CONSTRUCTIVE DESTRUCTION
Young children are at a concrete learning stage. They need to work on real objects to learn. Many times, they are seen to be destroying their toys, breaking them up into pieces and parts. This is called constructive destruction. Children break things apart to see how things work. They need to destruct in order to construct more or new knowledge.
- DON’T GIVE READY ANSWERS
Cultivate in children, a need for them to find out things for themselves. Let them feel a sense of achievement when they have discovered something new. Do not be too ready to provide answers. Celebrate every small discovery, even if they seemed trivial to you.
- ENVIRONMENT PLAYS A PART
An environment that supports the development of a child’s curiosity is often open-ended. Materials are placed within the children’s reach and the environment encourages the child’s autonomy in the selection of tasks and activities. An environment that nurtures curiosity is also one that embraces trial and error, experimentation and exploration.
10 PRACTICAL TIPS TO NURTURE CURIOSITY IN YOUR CHILD
- Acknowledge the questions asked by your child. Even if you cannot attend to it immediately, give a positive response e.g. “That’s really interesting but Mummy is busy right now. Let’s write it down and we will find out tonight.”
- Model a curious spirit. Who said we can’t be curious as adults. Ask questions and model it for your child. They will develop the spirit of curiosity with time.
- Google together with your child. There is nothing wrong in exposing your child to the world of the Internet, as long as they are being supervised. Let them see how vast the world is and enjoy the process of finding out things together.
- Allow time for your child to think. You may think that they are day dreaming but most likely not.
- Involve your children in cookery activities. Observing the changes in food during a cookery activity is a great way to stimulate your child’s curious cat in him.
- Let children help or observe little ‘handyman’ tasks e.g. cleaning/repairing fans, changing batteries or even fixing a radio or computer.
- Do not throw out old appliances. Just ensure that they are safe enough (no small parts for very young children) or have a supervised session when children can dismantle the parts and see what is inside.
- Hide things under the pillow or blanket and have your infant wonder where has it disappeared to.
- Learn through the natural environment. Take time to smell the flowers, listen to the rain, smell the grass with your child. Stimulating the senses encourages children to explore and wonder about the natural environment around them.
- Read, read, read! Reading opens up another world to the children, evoking their sense of environment. From books, children will have a platform to wonder, and parents can extend their learning from the stories.
Start nurturing your child’s curiosity at a very young age (even when they are babies). As the child grows older, they begin to lose their sense of curiosity. Remember, nurturing curiosity is like equipping your child with a life long learning tool. Help keep the awe burning in your child, for a life of success.