“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 should be curiosity.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Curiosity is the force that drives us to question the way things are, and wonder how they came to be. From the time we are born, we are drawn to new things. They make us want to explore and discover.
Curiosity leads to learning. That is exactly the reason we need to encourage our children to stay curious. Bruce D. Perry, an internationally recognized authority on brain development and children in crisis, shares a good illustration on the cycle of learning.
Think about how a 5-year-old finds tadpoles in a pool of mud on the playground. This discovery leads to pleasure, and pleasure leads to repetition, which in turn becomes mastery. The child returns to the puddle everyday, and they find that the tadpoles have grown legs. His mastery on the topic leads to confidence, and confidence increases the possibility to act on curiosity in the future. The cycle of learning begins again.
Our responsibility as parents is to embrace our children’s curiosity. When they ask questions, answer them and explain in the simplest ways. Let them know when you don’t know the answer by saying, “I don’t know, shall we find out?” Go out of the house to explore, or even go on the internet. Show your child ways how they can satisfy their curiosity.
Moreover, we need to acknowledge our children’s discoveries regardless of how small, or silly it may sound to you. Perry says that as social creatures, the most pleasurable about discovery and mastery is sharing it with someone we love and respect. For example, if your child tells you that mixing yellow and blue produces green, affirm his discovery with “That’s great!” You can encourage him further by, “Can you try red and yellow next and tell me what happens?”
Adults have the power to either stimulate, or constrain a child’s curiosity. As long as the child is within bounds of safety, let them explore. Don’t keep them from touching things, getting dirty, and taking things apart. These are ways they will learn about new things.
Perry says that less curious children often read fewer books, make fewer friends, and go to fewer places. Less curious children are also more difficult to inspire and motivate.
Let your child reach his best emotional, social, and cognitive potential by embracing his curiosity. When we do so, we ourselves are able to re-experience the joys of discovery and learn again.