Help children explore their curiosity
Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, human development specialist, Jackson County, University of Missouri Extension
Curiosity drives children to explore, learn and discover new things. According to Dr. Bruce Perry, professor of child psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, curiosity is the beginning of a “cycle of learning.” Curiosity not only leads to exploration and discovery, but also mastery of learning as the cycle repeats itself with new curiosities and discoveries.
As children explore, their experiences fuel social, physical, emotional and intellectual development. Children with less curiosity are less likely to participate in social groups and may be harder to teach. The following are some tips for parents to help spark children’s curiosity:
- Provide healthy family lives and routines. Young children need stable homes and calm routines. When children have a sense of security and are comfortable, they are able to explore their worlds and try new things. If parents are busy or distracted, they may be less responsive or available to their children. Children who experience violence, natural disasters, abuse, stress, fear, neglect or family distress may be less curious and are less likely to explore than children who are raised in healthy, stable homes. It is important for parents to spend time with children and maintain routines.
- Encourage and support children’s curiosity. A safe and supportive environment intrigues children’s curiosity. Childproof your home and provide a variety of interesting and safe materials to increase exploration. Introduce materials gradually to engage and stimulate children’s curiosity and learning, and avoid overwhelming or overstimulating children. Understand children’s temperaments and styles of curiosity. For instance, some children explore by touching, smelling, climbing and tasting, while others explore with their minds. Pay extra attention, offer assurance and be patient to help children who are reluctant to explore. Encourage children to try again or look for alternatives to explore when things don’t turn out the way they want.
- Explore curiosity together with enthusiasm. Children enjoy sharing the excitement of discovery. This learning experience helps children build confidence and self-esteem for optimal exploration. Get involved in your child’s curiosity and discovery. Be careful how you respond to children’s questions and curiosity. If you don’t know the answer, let children know and help them think about how to find the answers together. Be aware of your child’s interests and listen carefully to provide a learning environment for children’s wondering and creative thinking. Exploring curiosity with your children can be fun as you introduce the world’s wonders.
Perry, B. 2001. Curiosity: The Fuel of Development. http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/curiosity.htm (accessed November 2, 2009).
Last Updated 03/29/2010