From a very early age, kids are naturally curious about their surroundings. This curiosity is evident in the wide eyes of an infant trying to take in everything they see, the never-ending questions from a toddler, and the passion a young child discovers for a favorite animal, or subject in school. As parents, it is important to recognize and engage this curiosity. Encouraging curiosity will strengthen your child’s problem solving skills and help them to succeed as they continue their education throughout their lives. Here are a few tips to help you engage your kid’s curiosity.
Don’t Answer Immediately
This first secret to engaging your kids may seem contrary to helping your child learn. However, answering a question they ask quickly and directly will shut down curiosity. This question that has peeked your child’s interest will be forgotten or dismissed if they are spoon fed an answer. Instead, try responding to questions in a way that encourages them to continue to ponder and problem solve for them self. Such a response might be “That is a good question. What do you think?” or “Hmmm, good question, let’s talk about it. We can figure out the answer together.” Answering their simple, or complex, questions in this way may require more patience on your part, but will ultimately benefit your child’s ability to learn.
Read with Them
Engage your child’s curiosity by exposing them to new worlds, adventures, and possibilities that can be found in books. As you read, encourage your kid to ask questions during the story. Talking about the events in a story will not only improve your child’s listening comprehension, but it will also help them to be engaged in and curious about the book. This strategy will lead to a lifelong love of books, and an increase in curiosity.
Ask Stimulating Questions
Another great way to engage your kid’s curiosity is to ask them questions! If your little ones get bored during a long drive, engage them in conversation. Try asking them questions about their surroundings, their favorite characters in a book or movie they read or watched recently, or their favorite things. Encouraging your child to think things through and answer stimulating questions will build curiosity for a subject, and teach them to articulate their thoughts and feelings. The ability to think critically and articulate thoughts are invaluable skills that will benefit your child in their future in many ways.
When curious children are asking questions about the physical world, it is never to early to introduce the engineering process! Occasionally, engage your kid’s curiosity by helping them take their question and turn it into an experiment. Form a hypothesis, do some research, and come up with a way to test it out and make a discovery! This hands-on way of engaging your kid’s curiosity will encourage them to keep asking questions, and give them the resources and abilities to find answers.
Go to a Museum
Putting your kid in an environment where they will see and experience new and different things will stimulate and engage their curiosity. A trip to a museum can be a memorable way to get your child thinking about the world around them. Plan to visit Utah’s Museum of Natural History or the Clark Planetarium with your kids. The exciting exhibits are thought provoking and a lot of fun.
Visit the Library
Engage your kid’s curiosity by taking them to the library. Books for children of all ages are a great resource for learning something new. Doing research or reading a fun book is a great way to satisfy curiosity. A trip to the library is a great way to expound upon a child’s curiosity, and to encourage them to keep learning.
A great way to keep your curious child engaged is to send them outside. There is nothing like playing with a friend or alone with nothing but the surroundings to entertain to encourage curiosity and creativity. Imaginative play encourages children to think outside of the box, entertain wild ideas and possibilities, and explore curiosity. Encouraging your kid to play in this way will help them to develop their creativity and engage their curiosity.
Another way to encourage creativity as a method of engaging curiosity is through art. Whether your child likes to doodle with a crayon, sculpt with play dough, finger paint, make up a dance or sing a song, supporting your kid’s exploration of art will help them think about the world in different ways. Expose your child to art work and ask them what they see, or how it makes them feel. Conversations about art will engage your kid’s curiosity and get them to think about things in a new way. Exploring their curiosity through creating art will boost creativity and problem solving skills.
Child-like curiosity about the world around them may prompt creative or silly stories. For example, if your child found an oddly shaped rock while walking through a park, encourage them to think about why a rock would be shaped that way or make up a story about the rock’s “Adventures in the Park”. Permission to tell a story, fictitious or otherwise, will engage a child’s curiosity and encourage them to be curious about the world around them.
It is important to remember to celebrate the little things in your child’s curiosity, learning, and discoveries. Celebrate with your child when they make a new discovery, or when their curiosity is rewarded by thinking critically. Moments of positive reinforcement will strengthen your kid’s desire to learn more, and encourage them to engage their curiosity their whole life.
At The STEM Shoppe we engage a child’s curiosity and encourage them to be curious about the world around them.
Delia Bayna, M.Ed. is an elementary educator and frequently provides professional development opportunities for K-6 teachers state-wide.