Editor’s Intro: Children's constant curiosity a good thing

posted by: By Gaye Bunderson

By Gaye Bunderson

 

Curiosity is an amazing thing. It's the catalyst that drives invention, the impulse behind scientific achievement, the engine of artistic creativity, and the spark that makes us explore life and find it worth living.

There is no realm in which curiousity is not useful. I recently listened to a TV interview with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said her love of law stemmed from a curiosity about people, communities, organizations, and the government, and how they all fit together. The power of a curious mind isn't relegated to the arts and sciences.

Curiosity isn't just revelant to great achievements, such as the exploration of Mars. It seems to me an everyday impulse that takes people of all ages from boredom to wonder.

I think encouraging your children's curiousity is one of the best things you can do for them. Most kids possess a natural curiousity about many things — some of them oddly trivial to adults. I remember as a child thinking worms were fascinating because you couldn't tell their heads from their “bottom parts.” That's the kind of curious stuff kids relish.

Children are renowned for their “why,” “what's that,” and “how come” questions. Those constant queries can be bothersome at times. Author Ian Leslie in an article in The Guardian titled, “The importance of encouraging curiosity in children,” wrote: “The questions of children can become annoying, but I'd rather my daughter asked too many questions than too few. The only thing worse than having to explain to your child how babies are made would be a child who didn't want to know.”

Another author, Justin Coulson, in an article on the website Kidspot, wrote: “People who are curious and who love learning new things are usually happier and more optimistic than those who have no interest in learning. Furthermore, those who are curious generally do well academically, and find work that is continually interesting to them.”

Many articles are available online about how to nurture creativity in youngsters. One article warned parents how not to constrain their children's creative impulses. I'll share those warnings here. They are given by Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., in an article titled, “Curiosity: The Fuel of Development.”

“For too many children, curiosity fades,” Perry wrote. “Curiosity dimmed is a future denied. Our potential — emotional, social, and cognitive — is expressed through the quantity and quality of our experiences. And the less-curious child will make fewer new friends, join fewer social groups, read fewer books, and take fewer hikes. The less-curious child is harder to teach because he is harder to inspire, enthuse, and motivate.”

Perry, who is an expert on brain development, said there are several common ways adults squelch inquisitiveness in little ones, including fear, disapproval and absence. He writes: 

Fear: Fear kills curiosity. When the child's world is chaotic or when he is afraid, he will not like novelty. He will seek the familiar, staying in his comfort zone, unwilling to leave and explore new things.

Disapproval: 'Don't touch. Don't climb. Don't yell. Don't take that apart. Don't get dirty. Don't. Don't. Don't. Don't.' Children sense and respond to fears, biases, and attitudes. If we convey a sense of disgust at the mud on their shoes and the slime on their hands, their discovery of tadpoles will be diminished.

Absence: The presence of a caring, invested adult provides two things essential for optimal exploration: 1) a sense of safety from which to set out to discover new things and 2) the capacity to share the discovery and, thereby, get the pleasure and reinforcement from that discovery.”

On the flip side, here are five tips, in brief, for fostering a curious nature in your offspring:

1. Don't always answer their questions. Give them the opportunity to think things through for themselves.

2. Help your kids find the answers to their questions. Lead them to places where information can be gleaned, such as books or the Internet.

3. Follow their interests. Support and encourage their curiosity and help them have fun learning.

4. Read together and encourage questions. Show your children that you are curious too, and that vibrant curiosity is a positive attribute.

5. Provide your children with open-ended activities. Don't orchestrate their free time. Give them opportunties to explore on their own and be self-guided.

Broader information on these tips can be found in the article they are taken from: “5 Ways to Boost Your Child's Curiosity Today,” written by Sue Lively (http://onetimethrough.com/5-ways-boost-childs-curiosity/).

Did curiosity really kill the cat? Maybe. Cats can be dumb. And children, of course, can sometimes be oblivious to potential dangers and may need to be taught caution when they are curious about some things. But if a child wants to know where a worm's bum is, humor her. Yes, it's silly, but it could give that little girl, or boy, an ongoing hunger to know far bigger and more important things in life. The youngster could grow up to be an entomologist, biologist, engineer, nurse, or — what the heck — a magazine editor. Or he or she may just find pure joy in discovering something new every day.

 

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/07/importance-encouraging-curiosity-children 

http://www.kidspot.com.au/school/secondary/study-skills/raising-smart-curious-children 

http://teacher.scholastic.com/professional/bruceperry/curiosity.htm 

http://onetimethrough.com/5-ways-boost-childs-curiosity/ 

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