Wonder, interest, and the internal motivation to learn are derived from children’s natural propensity toward curiosity. A University of Michigan study links curiosity to higher rates of academic achievement. Moreover, when faced with challenging tasks, curious children are less likely to concentrate on possible failure, but instead focus on finding a solution. How do we foster curiosity and keep it active throughout childhood development?
Model Your Own Interest
Help your child learn to ask questions or be inquisitive about the world around them by modeling your own interest. Making comments such as, “I wonder why this happens?” or “Wow, this is amazing” shows your child that you are interested. Ask questions or wonder about things and then encourage your child to help look for answers. Engaging in the research process together shows your own interest in learning, and affirms the importance of curiosity.
Make Opportunities for Open-Ended Creativity
Open-ended creativity focuses on the process rather than the result. Science projects, Lego play, cooking experiments, and art projects are all great opportunities for learning. The activities don’t have to be complicated. For instance, exploring the properties of water by taking out an ice cube and seeing how it melts. Simple projects can spark creativity and make for shared fun!
Try New Things
Exposure to new opportunities helps to stretch a child’s learning and resilience. Playing a new game, going on a new hiking trail, attending a new after school activity, or even trying new foods help to encourage curiosity. Sometimes these new experiences can lead to anxious feelings. Listening to your child’s concerns and letting them know that their anxiety is natural, but then encouraging them to try helps to positively reinforce the notion that they are resilient.
Recognize your Child’s Exploration Style
Each child has an individual style of curiosity. Some children are independent explorers, while others prefer to remain near a caregiver. There are some children who learn by doing while others prefer to sit and ask questions. Take the time to observe and understand your child’s style, then gear experiences toward that style. If your child is tactile and active, plan excursions and encourage outings for exploration. If your child is quiet and inquisitive, read informational books together and ask questions to promote interactive discussions. The goal is to curate experiences to meet each child’s interest and personality.
Curiosity is a positive trait that all children have at the start of their lives, which we seek to nurture into a lifelong love of learning and exploration. As Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”