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Why We Should Encourage Curiosity in Our Kids

“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

Eleanor Roosevelt is right — curiosity is a gift. It is the force that drives us to question and wonder the way things are and how they came to be. From the time we are born, we are drawn to new things and they make us want to explore and discover it.

Curiosity leads to learning, and that is exactly the reason why we need to encourage our children to stay curious. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., 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 will lead to pleasure, and pleasure leads to repetition, which in turn becomes mastery. Everyday, the child returns to puddle of mud and eventually find that tadpoles grow legs. His mastery on the topic leads to confidence, and confidence increases the possibility to act on curiosity in the future, and the cycle of learning begins again.

As parents, it is our responsibility to embrace our children’s curiosity. When they ask questions, answer them and explain in the simplest ways. When you don’t know the answer, let them know and say, “I don’t know, shall we find out?” And then go out of the house to explore or even just go on the internet and show your child ways how he can satisfy his 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 while he is coloring that mixing yellow and blue produces green, affirm his discovery with “That’s great!” and encourage him further by, “Can you try red and yellow next and tell mommy what happens?”

Adults have the power to either stimulate or constrain a child’s curiosity. As long as he or she is within bounds of safety, let your child explore. Don’t keep him from touching things, getting dirty, and taking things apart. These are the only ways that he will find himself learning about new things.

Perry says that less curious children often read fewer books, make fewer new friends, and go to fewer new 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.



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