When I think of insatiable curiosity, I think of that loveable, indefatigable little monkey Curious George. My 3 year old son, Onetime, loves the Curious George books and I enjoy reading his silly adventures where his curiosity always gets him into trouble.
In real life though, I think that a good sense of curiosity is more likely to lead to a creative, self-directed learner who thinks for him or herself. It’s a positive trait and the focus of today’s Teaching Kids About Character post: Q is for InQuisitive!
In my teacher-training, I learned lots of different ways to motivate kids to learn. But above all, I found the most important factor in whether a child learns is if he or she wants to know more about a topic. In other words, if they are curious about it.
In my desire for my son to grow up to be a lifelong learner, I have found a few strategies (some borrowed from my teaching background and others from parenting sources) that really have worked to help boost and support his natural curiosity.
At 3 years of age, Onetime already has an insatiable curiosity for anything mechanical or electrical. He wants to know how things work, why they work the way they do, and he retains amazing details of what he has learned. It constantly impresses and surprises me!
Unfortunately, somehow for many kids, this natural tendency gets lost along the way and by the time I’m teaching them in grades 4 or 5, it may have been dampened.
Although we can’t control all the situations that lead to kids’ losing their enthusiasm for learning, here are 5 tips that may help support and even boost your child’s inquisitiveness!
1. Don’t Always Answer Their Questions
According to Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, if we always answer our children’s questions, it can begin to affect their ability to think things through for themselves.
They suggest that when kids ask questions, they have already got some thoughts about what the answer might be. It may be more supportive of their curiosity to instead answer a question by saying, “That’s a good question. What do YOU think?”
I have used this strategy with my son for a while now, and he is almost always able to develop an answer for himself. Sometimes I have to wait (maybe even up to 10 seconds!), but he rarely ever answers, “I don’t know.”
In this case, I might answer the question, or try strategy #2.
“Where do you think we could find the answer to your question?” Sometimes, this leads us to the library to get some new books on a topic, or it might take us to the internet together, or it might be a question that gets set aside until we visit someone who might know the answer (like a doctor, dentist, librarian etc.)
Usually with Onetime, we end up finding a new book on the topic, and as we are reading, if we find the answer – I’ll point it out. “Hey! That’s what you were wondering about! We found the answer! Cool.” That takes us to strategy #3.
3. Follow Your Child’s Interests
When kids are interested in something – GO with it, support it, and they will learn so much and enjoy learning! This is so easy to do with little ones before they start school, or if you are homeschooling.
I wrote an entire post on this topic called “4 Easy Ways to Help Your Child Love Learning.” Following your child’s interests and learning along with them is great fun and a terrific way to help set them up to be lifelong, curious, learners!
This is a widely used teaching technique that models how kids can ask themselves questions as they read. When Onetime and I are reading a book together, I will often pause and comment on things that I wonder as we are reading.
For example, I might say some things like:
“Hmm…I wonder what will happen next?” “I wonder why that boy is doing that?” or
“I wonder where they are going?” or “I wonder who is going to help?”
Sometimes, I just pause and ask my son if he has any questions about what we’re reading. This is usually easier for kids to do when you’re reading non-fiction (real) texts.
5. Provide Open-Ended Activities
Let kids play! We’ve heard this over and over in the news lately. It’s so important not to structure every little thing that our kids do in the day.
Kids can learn just as much from exploratory play with new materials as they can from “lessons” and worksheets. Guided activities and paperwork have their place, but kids are really motivated to learn when they can get “hands-on” with materials.
When kids are trying new ways to combine, order, and learn about new materials – they are asking themselves questions and testing their own hypotheses! Curiosity in action!
That’s it for my 5 tips! If you’re looking for some activity ideas to boost curiosity, check these posts out:
*Get your child inspired and curious about nature with our 30 Fun Ways to Get Into Nature.
* Help your child make scientific observations and hypotheses while watching the Hopping Corn Science Activity.
* Have some fun Exploratory Mini-Adventures together to help discover your child’s interests.
* Try some Open-Ended Art Activities to boost your child’s creativity and artistic curiosity.
* Let your child develop their sensory curiosity with 10 Sensory Activities You Can Do in 10 Minutes.
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To keep following our alphabetic journey – visit our Teaching Kids About Character page.
To a curious future – full of questions,
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A big thanks to the PODcast blog for the inspiration for this series! Please check out their photographic alphabetic journey!