When we live with curiosity as children, we live confidently as adults. Curiosity opens so many doors for us. We discover new things, test our bravery, meet new people, learn new skills, and inspire creativity all along the way. Arguably one of the best and most important parts of being a child is feeling empowered, unashamed, and endlessly curious — to imagine all the possibilities for your life without restriction.
Learning never stops, but there’s no denying that when life gets busy or overwhelming, we tend to stick to what’s safe and familiar rather than seeking out new experiences. How wonderful it is to learn a new skill within ourselves or discover a new story. It’s lovely to feel like a child again! To help your child hold onto their natural knack for learning throughout life and live confidently, here are some rules you can follow and some activities you can do together.
Set the Scene for Exploration
My high school principal always told us, you don’t know what you don’t know? and he was right. Growing up, we don’t know what our options are. That also means we don’t know our limitations! Your entire life, there are endless possibilities and avenues to explore to continue learning and growing. To find them, and to help our children find them, we just have to set the right scene and go!
- Whenever possible, allow children to set the pace and direction of learning. If they’re getting really jazzed about a subject, try not to cut it off just to stay in the lines of a curriculum. If you aren’t able to continue with a subject at that time (such as due to a teacher’s time restrictions) enrich it after hours with fun, explorative activities like documentaries or foraging hikes to learn more about nature!
- Open-ended play is the way! Try to give your child the space to play on his or her own and with others, and make sure not to intervene unless you really need to. Children might not play with certain toys in the way they are intended, like changing the rules of Go Fish to their own version, but if it doesn’t work out how they’d like, they’ll learn.
- Expand! Rather than memorizing facts and figures, explain how it fits into the larger picture. Saturn might be the sixth planet from the sun, but how does that impact its temperature? Its lightness/darkness? How long are its days? In short, continue down the rabbit hole to show there is always more to learn!
- Talk about your own hobbies! You are your child’s idol and they will want to model whatever you’re doing. Even if kids might not be interested in doing crosswords or watching old documentaries (you’d be surprised) showing them that you are looking to learn more and live confidently shows them that they should be too!
- Simultaneous play goes a long way. Play alongside them, whether you’re crocheting, painting, trying out a new exercise class, or listening to your favorite albums. Displaying the skills and passions you’ve collected throughout your life is inspiring for a growing mind. For instance, I know of a mother who would make elaborate quilts while her daughter learned to finger crochet beside her and eventually became a fashion designer. You never know how their passions will take off and where they’ll find their niche!
- When you don’t have time to answer all their questions, don’t tell them to stop asking them, ask them to write them down. This will give you some breathing room to answer them later (maybe with the help of Google) without interrupting or penalizing their thought process.
- Teach them that failing and making mistakes is okay. This feeds into curiosity by keeping the doors open and encouraging them to keep exploring, even if they stumble.
- Encourage them to reflect on their interactions with others. Empathy and curiosity go hand in hand. For instance, an exercise in HAPPE’s Mission I’m Possible Challenge is to smile at three people and think about how it made them feel. Being curious about another person’s feelings, or even just recognizing that they have feelings independently of yours, is a huge step in developing empathy!
- Do science experiments together! Oh, the things you can learn just by playing and creating little experiments with the items you already have in your home.
- Listen to stories together! Read to your children often. Choose some of your favorites and have them pick out books for themselves. When you can’t be there to read with them, tune in to the New York Public Library’s daily digital story time, or have them watch educational TV shows that expose them to different people, scenarios, and cultures.
- Visit museums (even if virtual) and attend virtual storytimes. I didn’t go to a museum until I had to go as an assignment for a class – now the local museum is my favorite place in the city. I didn’t even know I was interested in art until I was 19 or 20 years old because I hadn’t been exposed to it growing up! Museums are such a wonderful place to a child (and me, an adult) with so many different points of interest.
Kids have lots of questions. They’re constantly investigating and turning over new rocks to find what’s underneath. In the ultimate form of flattery, they also think you have all the answers for them! To help foster and fortify a child’s natural curiosity, continue to empower your own aptness for discoveration. When kids are curious, constantly learning, constantly failing and getting back up, they are building resiliency and empathy, while being empowered to live confidently at any age.