Children are curious by nature, they ask a lot of questions, and rightly so; the world is a complex place for little ones (and adults) to comprehend, and it is our responsibility, as parents, to nurture that curiosity.
The importance of nurturing curiosity
I strongly believe that by encouraging imagination and curiosity in our toddlers we are setting them up for a lifelong love of learning. As parents, we want our children to have a thirst for knowledge, and empower them to be independent learners; we hope that they will be interested and interesting as they mature. The daunting thing is, it’s up to us to nurture their curiosity along the way.
Studies have even shown that curiosity has a large positive effect on academic performance. Not that this is necessarily important in itself, but it goes to show that curious kids have the potential to achieve more, just from being curious. How great is that?
“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” Samuel Johnson, The Rambler.
Ideas for raising curious kids
Are you feeling daunted by the weight of responsibility of raising your child to be curious? Me too! So I’ve been thinking about ways in which I can, and do, try and nurture Rosalie’s curiosity, and I’ve come up with these ideas:
Listen and respond to their questions
Young children tend to start by asking “what’s that?” because they want to learn what things around them are called. Then they progress to asking “why?” and “what will happen?” because they want to understand the things around them. It can be overwhelming at times, the number of questions a preschooler asks, but the worst thing we can do is ignore or dismiss them because we are too busy or don’t know the answer.
“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
If I don’t know the answer to one of Rosalie’s questions, or she wants to know more than I can provide, we look it up! That’s the power of having Google right in your pocket – no questions go un-answered for long!
Let them investigate
Babies and toddlers often seek to understand their world by investigating in their own way, such as dropping food off their high chair tray to see what will happen, or making patterns in their food, or banging two items together. Although you might want to discourage this at mealtimes, play time is the perfect opportunity to do some of these things:
- balls, balloons and bubbles are a good way of showing how things fall to the ground, or don’t.
- sensory trays (sand, rice etc) and paint are great for allowing little ones to make patterns.
- simple percussion instruments provide endless opportunities for toddlers to make noise!
I personally place a great deal of importance on open-ended toys, invitations to play and invitations to create. These are some of the ‘building’ toys we have, which provide hours of investigative, imaginative and creative play:
- Plastic blocks
- Wooden bricks (different shapes)
- Marble run
- Car track
- Train set
Here’s another secret: don’t show them how a toy is supposed to work! Let them figure it out by themselves!
I also love to set Rosalie up with a little invitation to play or create; these are just some of the materials I use:
- Dyed rice
- Kinetic Sand
- Play dough
- Snow dough
- Natural loose parts
- Craft supplies
Let them explore at their own pace
When you go outside exploring together, follow their pace and take their lead on what interests them – sticks, puddles, bugs, trees, flowers, animals – whatever it is, let them explore and ask questions as they go. You can ask them questions or point things out too.
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” Richard Feynman.
We recently had some icy weather and Rosalie was fascinated with the frozen puddles – the fact that they were slippery, the noise they made when she stamped on them, the fact that some were thin and cracked easily and some required a big stamp to break through, and she learnt by falling in one that icy puddles are very chilly!
I expect your toddler does this too, but Rosalie will sniff every flower, even if it looks the same, because she doesn’t know if it might smell different; we try not to rush her in these situations as it’s lovely for her to discover things for herself, and we’re nurturing her curiosity by giving her the time to do it.
Introduce them to a variety of people and media
Although the internet is great for getting fast answers to toddler questions, there are lots of other sources of knowledge that we can share with our kids:
- Friends from different backgrounds
- Relatives with different skills and hobbies
- Child-friendly museums
- Experts at local wildlife centres or zoos
- Reference books
- TV programmes
One of Rosalie’s favourite CBeebies shows is ‘Do you know?’ – I would highly recommend it if your kids don’t already watch it. Maddie is such an engaging and enthusiastic presenter. Rosalie has even taught me a thing or two whilst inspecting the door mechanism and informing me about dead bolts after watching an episode on locks!
Stay curious yourself
Probably equally as important as the other points is for us to stay curious ourselves. If we aren’t setting an example, can we really expect our children to maintain the level of curiosity they have when they’re two or three? I don’t think so. We need to be showing them that we are still learning, and that there is always something new to be interested in. We need to stay curious ourselves to help answer those tricky questions that are outside our area of expertise.
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Albert Einstein.
In our house Jim is definitely more curious than me, he always makes an effort to look something up if he doesn’t know the answer, sometimes I can be a bit lazy unless it’s something that really interests me. I always show an interest in Rosalie’s questions though, but we usually defer to Daddy for science and maths, I’m better with english and humanities!
Let’s not rest on our laurels
It would be very easy for me to say “job done, Rosalie is a really curious three year old, she loves books and exploring and asks loads of questions.” But this definitely isn’t a ‘job done’ situation – nurturing curiosity is an ongoing role we must play as parents. I really hope by applying some of these ideas that my curious toddler will turn into a curious child, a curious teenager and eventually a curious adult with much to offer the world.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Henry Ford.
I really hope this post has given you some inspiration on how you can help your kids to be curious, and in turn develop a lifelong love of learning.
Free Scavenger hunts!
Scavenger hunts are a great way of nurturing curiosity in children, and this year I have created twelve different scavenger hunts for Rosalie, one each month. If you’d like to receive these free printables, then sign up below and you’ll get a Winter Scavenger Hunt for January delivered straight to your inbox. The next one will be a Shapes and Colours Scavenger Hunt emailed to you at the beginning of February.
Rosalie – 37 months