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How to Nurture Your Child's Curiosity

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Kawai is a working mom with twins who is surviving on coffee, naps and practical parenting advice.

Nurture your child's curious mind

Nurture your child's curious mind

Curiosity is a natural driving force for children to seek more information to make sense of the world they live in and our interactions and responses to their curiosity can help develop positive behaviors and skills such as critical and creative thinking. Such behaviors will help children as they go to higher learning and develop as adults.

Below are 6 simple things you can do right now to help power up their little inquisitive minds.

Nurture curiosity by setting simple achievable tasks

Nurture curiosity by setting simple achievable tasks

1. Design Activities with Low Entry Barrier

Most young children have low attention span and tend to give up easily if the tasks given to them are too tough. As such, it is important to design activities that are simple to help the child to succeed and encourage them to explore further. However, try not to make the tasks too simple as well, as it could hinder creativity and the child may also lose interest.

Level up the activities when they get better at it. For example, when you teach your child to play ball, you could start by rolling the ball towards them on the floor. When they gain more confidence, you can start to throw the ball at them. Throw the ball in different ways (e.g. bounce a few times instead of directly at them) to introduce them different ways of doing the same activity. Encourage them to come up with their own game with the ball.

Encourage your child to ask questions

Encourage your child to ask questions

2. Respect Their Thoughts and Actions

When children share their thoughts, which could be quite amusing to us or create something (e.g. come up with their own stories), don't laugh or simply dismiss them. I find this so important because I witnessed first hand how our reactions can stifle a child's imagination and creativity.

My son loves to come up with silly stories about his smelly pillow being a super hero and the story always starts with the pillow flying out slowly from somewhere (like Star Wars credits) while he sings a theme song which he came up with. I laughed the first few times I witnessed this and each time, he would get upset and stop telling his story. When I stopped laughing (and put on my normal face), he would go on and on about his super hero pillow. So we need to value their thoughts and actions to allow them to grow their imagination and confidence.

Read different books to your child to give them more exposure to things around them

Read different books to your child to give them more exposure to things around them

3. Treasure and Invite Questions

It can be frustrating at times when young children starts asking a lot of questions (while talking non-stop as well). However, whenever possible, try to be patient and answer their questions properly and correctly. Children are really like sponges so if we are patient enough to answer things that interest them, we can (hopefully) create more knowledgeable kids and encourage them to be more inquisitive about the world around them.

If your child asks you a question that you don't know the answer, instead of saying "I don't know", you can say "Let's find the answer!" to acknowledge their need to understand and help build their knowledge. You can also ask open ended questions such as "What do you think..." or "Why do you think this is so..." to push them to think further.

My son loves vehicles and he would often ask about the different parts of a vehicle and what it does. Most of the time, I do not really know the answers but I try to remember to address them, so I let him watch Blippi and Khan Academy Kids on different types of vehicles he was interested in. I was pleasantly surprised one day when we were at a red light stop next to a construction site and he was able to name many of the construction vehicles and their parts (and also explained what the parts were meant to do).

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Encourage your child to be inquisitive and seek information on their own

Encourage your child to be inquisitive and seek information on their own

4. Value Process Over Knowing All The Answers

It is more important to develop your child's skills at finding answers, than to simply provide them with the answers (and aim for your child to be a walking encyclopedia). You could guide your child to learn skills such as observing, sorting, comparing, experimenting, grouping, deducing which would be helpful when they need to solve questions or analyze problems.

For example, if your child asks why the car wheels are circle shape, instead of explaining to them immediately, you could get your child to roll different shapes objects (e.g. a ball, a cube) and get him / her to observe. Ask questions like "Which shape do you think makes the car go faster?" and wait for them to answer instead of offering one directly.

Children playing in the forest

Children playing in the forest

5. Release Some Degree of Control

You hate mess, I hate mess, everyone hates mess. And most of the time, children is a messy affair and they get out of control, doing things you would not normally do. My kids drive me crazy when they like to touch everything and run around and my parental alarm system is constantly on high alert. I do recognize that being overly protective can stifle children but not having some degree of control especially when they are younger, can be dangerous.

However, as they grow older, I am (still) learning to let go a little. For example, when I bring them out for a walk in a park, I try to resist nagging at them and rushing to wipe their hands when they pick up sticks from the ground and starts poking around. Now, it is a routine for them to find sticks whenever we go for a walk and they like to explore around with their sticks, touching leaves and insects and even drawing on the ground if they see muddy soil (I try not to think of the dirt on their shoes).

In the end they have lots of fun and get to feed their curiosity of the things around them, have opportunities to observe more and ask more, and that's all that really matters.

Child jumping on muddy puddle

Child jumping on muddy puddle

6. Change of Routine

Routines are good as it offers children some level of comfort and security. However, as they get a little older, having a change of routine and exposing them to unfamiliar things could encourage curiosity and create opportunities to develop analytical skills such as observing, questioning, comparing etc.

A change of routine does not have to be a big activity, but it could be simple changes like the shape of the pasta that they are used to eating, the flavor of the toothpaste they use, a different route to school, a different texture of the food they like (e.g. cooked versus raw carrot). You would be surprised at how observant kids are.

Exposing children to different environments could help to stimulate their senses and expand their curiosity. You could bring them out for a night walk if you usually stay at home in the evenings, bring them to a water park instead of the dry playground, go to a ball pit instead of a sand pit, go to an outdoor concert or night art festivals (if you have the energy for it).

When my son was about three and a half years old, he would start to notice when things were a little different from the usual. For example, I would occasionally change the routes I take when walking him home from school. He would keep asking many questions to try and figure out what was going on. I would reassure him that everything is alright and that we are trying something different. In time, my son started to recognise more places, the general direction home and remember which route takes longer and landmarks along the way. He would request to go a certain way so he could pass by his favorite places (e. g. bread shop, orange juice vending machine, playground).

References: Supporting Early Scientific Thinking Through Curiosity

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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