Every child has an innate sense of curiosity. They’re born with it. Curiosity is what drives their desire to discover the world around them, to make sense of the uncertain and to learn and to grow. And parents can play a really important role and supporting their children in their enquiries and explorations.
By fostering a child’s intellectual curiosity, we nurture the joy of discovery.
So how can parents help nurture this natural instinct? What can we do to encourage and strengthen the child’s desire to solve life’s everyday mysteries? How can we help instil a love of learning that endures before school, through school and beyond?
Practical strategies to nurture a child’s curiosity
Yes, this can be challenging because kids ask A LOT of questions (some studies show that four-year-olds can ask up to 300 questions a day!), but questions are at the heart of discovery, so parents need to feed their child’s inquisitive desire.
Our job is to help children learn how to ask more questions as opposed to simply providing answers. Children practice their investigative skills by asking questions, so when you’re answering one of their questions, try to phrase your responses in ways that prompt further query and discovery. While there are obviously questions that require definitive answers (“what time is supper?”), your answers should lead to them asking further questions so that they learn to persevere to find answers or solutions.
Be curious yourself. Children learn by watching and mirroring your behaviour and your responses, so show your enthusiasm for the world around you and demonstrate how you use all of your senses to find answers or information.
It’s really important to show genuine interest in a child’s questions and not to simply fob them off or diminish them. Curiosity drives self-directed learning and by celebrating the child’s questioning, we can encourage a lifelong love of learning.
Ask open-ended questions
Let your child hear you express your own musings about the world by asking questions with words like ‘I wonder who, what, when, where, why and how’.
Let kids be kids
Adults naturally want to smooth the child’s passage through life and show them what to do and what not to do. Of course, there are situations where this approach is necessary, but it’s also really important to resist the urge to demonstrate and to rather let the child make mistakes. They learn by doing. Taking risks is an expression of their curiosity and provided that the path of discovery doesn’t put them in any danger, parents should let them simply ‘be’.
Explore different places
Take your children to as many different places as possible - the beach, the airport, the bakery, the train station, the museum, even a visit to your local park can be a voyage of discovery. Think fallen leaves (‘why do you think these leaves are on the ground?’), insects hiding behind a piece of bark (‘what do you think the insect is doing there?’), the wonder of sunlight streaming through foliage and so on.
Share family experiences
Go camping, fishing and swimming together. Go on outings to the zoo, to a petting farm, horse stables, you can go just about anywhere and discover new things together by using all of your senses.
Do things with your children
Bake cookies together. Plant seeds. Water the garden. Sweep leaves. Go for a walk in the neighbourhood. Wash the dog. Get messy with mud. Shared activities are a great way to encourage them to explore new areas of enquiry and knowledge. Something as simple as involving children in preparing lunch helps them explore and experiment. Find out more here: "Teaching Children about Nutrition"
Bring in an element of surprise
Bringing something novel to an everyday event (putting music on during a meal or putting food colouring in the mashed potato) or mixing up a daily routine can stimulate their minds in a fun and positive way.
Encourage open-ended play
A cardboard box, a cup of water and some sand, a piece of string and some toilet roll inners can all be prompts for children to experiment and use their imaginations to explore different avenues for play. This article on how play-based learning benefits children is a helpful read for parents.
Give your child the greatest gift - enhance their curiosity
Encouraging curiosity in children will set them on a path to become engaged, happier, more resourceful and more fulfilled adults. It sets them on a path of a lifelong love of learning and as parents, this is one of the greatest gifts we can hope to give our children. Our play-based environment at Evoke Early Learning builds our little learners’ confidence, creativity and curiosity and energises them to explore and discover the world around them. We have several centres across Victoria, and we would welcome an opportunity to introduce our safe, happy and nurturing environment to you. You’re welcome to book a tour of one of our Evoke Early Learning childcare centres in Clayton or Albert Park.