“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and trying new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
– Walt Disney
Children are naturally curious. They are born eager to discover, explore, and figure out how the world works. Young children routinely move through the day with their senses primed to gather data as they try to make meaning of the world around them.
The world of a young child is full of new foods to taste, new people to meet, new games to play, words to understand, places to visit, and concepts to master. The infant and toddler will touch, taste, smell, watch, listen, climb over, poke at, take apart, and learn more at this age, than at any other time in life.
Curiosity for a toddler is simple- it is, how we learn, through questioning. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why is grass green?” These questions—and all the other questions your child asks you throughout the course of a day—are simple yet beautiful expressions of their innate curiosity and wonder about the world.
Curiosity is a strong motivator for learning. When children are given the opportunity to articulate and explore their own questions, they are more engaged in the process and the lessons they learn are memorable. There are simple ways you can cultivate your child’s natural curiosity.
Unstructured Play and Exploration
Children need unscheduled time to play, create, and just be. Unstructured open-ended play time helps children develop autonomy and independence, while providing opportunities for curiosity, discovery, and innovation. Create occasions for your child to explore and play on their own. You can provide your child with materials like tape, cardboard rolls and a big carton box; stand back and watch what they do with it, give them the space to explore and create something on their own. The joy and fun will be unending for them as well as for you.
Provide a Variety of Experiences for Your Child
Spark your child’s curiosity through fun, new experiences. Visit museums, zoos, libraries, parks, and beaches. While you’re there talk to your child about the things they see. Help your child articulate what they wonder, and ask them questions about what you see as well.
Welcome Endless Questions with Patience
Children have a lot to learn about the world. Spend time listening to and validating your child’s questions. Encourage your child to investigate the answers to their own questions when possible. Try to refrain from giving quick and easy answers. Instead, support your child by setting up resources to discover the answer. By just being available, your child, will be able to pursue a love of learning and all you have to do is facilitate it.
Build our own curiosity
When your child is interested in a topic, ask them open-ended questions that allow for a variety of responses. Further, it’s important for children to learn how to articulate their ideas in conversation with others. Gently challenge your child’s ideas and ask them what they can do to investigate their questions. Some phrases to try are “what do you think would happen if…” or “tell me more about….” You will be amazed by what you hear when you take the time to engage with your child’s ideas and talk it through with them.
Nurturing children’s curiosity is hard work. The best way for parents and teachers to encourage children’s curiosity is to stay curious themselves. As we get older, we have a tendency to fall back on what we know, but curiosity is like a muscle: it weakens without use. To keep it strong, we need to adopt the perspective of young children, and remain intensely conscious of what we don’t know and be role models to our children.
Being curious about things means we love learning. People who love learning demonstrate positive outcomes in their lives, and all we have to do as parents is make sure we don’t extinguish the flame of curiosity.