Watching our children grow is equal parts fear and anxiety and pure joy – especially when they are very young and seem to be changing and learning something new every day.
As parents, we want them to thrive in every area of life – and do our best to instill in them practices and habits that will make their time on earth more enjoyable and more fulfilling.
If you had asked me what I wanted for my children before they were born, you would have been exposed to all kinds of answers.
Today I mainly stick to “healthy” and “curious”.
While some will tell you curiosity killed the cat, I am a firm believer in the power or curiosity – it keeps life interesting, but it also helps us shake up the status quo and discover more of life, than were we to just accept facts as they are being presented to us.
Here are my tips for raising inquisitive and curious children:
Take note of their interests and let them explore
The first rule of parenting is (or at least it should be) – what works for one child will not work for another.
Every child is different and different objects and concepts will spark their curiosity. There is no magic formula or a list of activities that you can tick items off of.
Follow your child’s natural pangs of curiosity, especially when they are babies and toddlers. Don’t discourage them from exploring the world because they might make a mess of themselves or the house. Be there to guide them and keep them safe, but let them try things out.
You might discover they like music, nature, animals., sports – and this can help you learn more about their character and work with it as they get older.
I remember when my daughter used to climb onto the dinner table when she was 2 – some of our guests would be shocked we let her do it. I explained she needed to perfect climbing, and the table was the only tool available to her.
(She of course stopped climbing after she knew she could do it and learned what was to be found up top.)
Answer questions truthfully
Parents sometimes dread the questions their child is going to come up with next. Especially when they don’t know the answers to all of them.
In order to encourage your child’s curiosity, do your best to provide real and honest answers. Don’t just go with the easier “because I say so” or “it just is”. Take your time to give concise and above all else, truthful answers.
If you don’t know an answer, take the time to find out together. This will teach your child that it’s okay not to know something and seek out an answer to any question. You will also be teaching them about resources and how to recognize good ones.
Ask questions yourself
Another great method is to actively seek answers yourself – from your child.
Open-ended questions are the best kind, as they will allow your child to form opinions and thoughts on their own. Ask them about their day in school, what they thought about a movie you watched or a book you read, what they think will happen next in a series you are watching, and so on.
You can also ask for their opinion when they come to you with a question – for instance, if they inquire why some people drive on one side of the road while others drive on the other, ask them what they think, and then go and look for the answer together.
Find time for unstructured play
Unstructured play is incredibly important for building up a child’s curiosity and creativity.
While parents sometimes think they need to set up entire elaborate setups for their child to enjoy unstructured play (and while you can certainly go all out with designing a creativity nook of dreams), sometimes all you need is some old newspaper, a pair of scissors and some glue.
You can turn any item into a tool for unstructured play – just be mindful of the damage you can cause to it, and if it’s age-appropriate.
If you are completely stuck for ideas, Pinterest usually has a suggestion or two you will find attractive.
Keep schoolwork interesting
Going to school can sometimes dampen a child’s curiosity, in the sense that there is plenty of structure, and not always room to be creative and get questions answered in the classroom.
If your children are keen on learning and wants to spend more of their time discovering the world around them and wants to be stimulated more than they are at school, you can supplement their learning routine with materials of your own.
There are thousands of online resources you can reach for. We like these puzzles because they are always different. My sister’s kids like to play math and chess games on their phones. You can take a virtual museum tour, watch documentaries – whatever your child is interested in, there will be a resource online they can enjoy.
Surprise them and break out of their routine
While it is commonly believed that children enjoy and can hugely benefit from routines, breaking out of them can sometimes be just as beneficial.
Surprise them with a trip to the zoo or a museum or the library, take them out of school one day and spend the day baking and cooking, let them do their homework after dinner if their normal routine is to do it before they eat – don’t let them know a surprise is coming and keep them guessing what and where they will be doing.
These unplanned activities, especially if they are doing something for the first time, will help children’s curiosity immensely.
To sum it all up
Children are naturally curious and want to know more about the world around them. As long as you keep them safe and teach them how to stay safe themselves, do your best to let them roam and explore on their own and provide guidance if and when they need it.
Don’t be too strict with children and let them enjoy their childhood – they will remember it fondly and will be able to draw a lot of solace from it as they get older.