While our commitment to nurturing curiosity in children may seem absolute, busy schedules can make this feel challenging and the convenience of screen time is a daily temptation. The science shows, however, that nurturing curiosity in the early years has lifelong implications for a child.
Why does curiosity matter?
Anderson University highlights four powerful answers to this question.
It promotes brain activity. Curiosity is like exercise for your brain. Asking questions and activating our cognitive 'muscles' strengthens our ability to think. This has obvious implications for ability to learn in school and our willingness to use our minds every day.
It teaches your mind to identify new ideas. Curiosity is the way we gather and recognize new ideas. Without promoting this function, people are unable to spot valuable solutions when they arise in their environment and solve problems.
It promotes open-mindedness + lifelong learning. Curiosity allows us to see beyond the surface level in our life, it is the driving force that implores us to dig into topics and understand more about a person, subject, or issue. A curious mind has the interest and willingness to discover new possibilities and integrate new information.
It makes life exciting. The reason that curious people may seem to live exciting lives, is because they are continually exploring. The world is ever-changing, and curiosity is the conduit for engaging in the world and generating interest in the world around us. Nurturing curiosity is the greatest tool we have for combating boredom and short attention spans.
So how exactly can we nurture curiosity in young children?
Storytime is one of my favorite ways to introduce new ideas and trigger new conversations with my children, especially my preschoolers. Books naturally create gentle visual and auditory cues that hold young children's attention and trigger curiosity.
I recently launched a new nature play children's book called Meet the Wild to introduce preschoolers to the seasons through outdoor play. Nature provides the perfect blend of sensory input and promotes curiosity in a natural, exciting, and balanced way. Puddles, changing weather, bugs emerging from under a rock... the opportunities are endless! Learn more about this new nature book and pre-order your copy here.
I recently read about a modern and straightforward Early Years Learning framework that offers practical ideas for encouraging curiosity in young children. Kids Play Childcare co-founders Lyndsey Hellyn & Stephanie Bennet have developed a method called 'The Curiosity Approach' . How the 'Curiosity Approach' works The philosophy is grounded in the principle that children naturally want to explore, and involves some simple strategies that can easily create the right conditions for curiosity.
Create opportunities to stimulate curiosity: Provide children with natural objects (fruit, vegetables, everyday household items made of different materials) at the child’s eye level.
Engage the child's senses: Encourages children to use their five senses to evaluate them. How do they look? Smell? Feel in their hands? Evaluate the object's use together: Discuss different ways the object could be used, or what it resembles. Children will often instinctively explore different ways to interact with the given objects.
Final tip: To reduce overstimulation and avoid negative emotions, Hellyn & Bennet recommend using neutral colors and objects made of natural materials. They believe that brightly colored artificial materials (like plastic toys) can cause tiredness, stress, anger, and upset in young children.
“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 would be curiosity.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Further Reading: The Importance of Being…Curious (Anderson University)
Time For A Natural Environment? The Curiosity Approach Interview :Are bright colours and plastic to blame for overstimulated children?