The importance of nurturing your child’s natural curiosity
Children are born curious. From a young age, they learn from this curious nature. Sometimes parents are too cautious for safety reasons. However nurturing this natural curiosity is the best thing you can do for your child. By doing this your child will construct their own knowledge. Their little brains are switched on to learn and discover new things. Curiosity makes your child more observant and gives them confidence. It gives them the opportunity to see the world from their perspective.
Stages of curiosity
Babies first start to develop their curiosity at home. I’m pretty sure all babies have this natural curiousity. Curiosity develops visual and sensory stimulation. Remembering the time when my girls were babies. When they had good control over their neck muscles they lifted their heads to turn and look at their surroundings. Bright colours and certain objects fascinated them. They discovered their hands and feet and those would be the first to go in their mouths. The first time we placed them in front of a mirror was an experience. Amazed at what was staring back at them. Touching the mirror, they would look with big eyes and then laugh out loud.
When they started crawling, it sparked even more curiosity. We had to child-proof almost everything for their safety. They wanted to open up cupboard doors and put their fingers in plug sockets. They crawled all over. Peeped under the beds. Climbed up on low tables and beds. Reaching and pulling at hanging objects. Obviously taking away objects that would hurt or put them in danger. We allowed them to explore and crawl all over.
At the age of 1, when they could walk, their curiosity increased. Some might mistake curiosity for being naughty or mischievous but it is not the same. Packing and unpacking was the norm. Silence meant something was brewing. Even if it was just for a few seconds. Getting hold of the baby powder and making a mess, rolling down all the toilet paper, smearing lotion all over them. Grabbing the dog’s tail as it wagged and wanting to eat the dog food. Blowing bubbles sparked more curiosity. Mesmerized by the shape of the bubbles, focusing on each bubble, laughing and trying to grab and catch it.
When they were just over the age of 1, they started discovering other children. Not yet knowing how to play with children was a strange experience. They were curious as to what others looked like by pulling their hair and poking them in the face. Initially we thought that they tried to fight but then discovered it was just curiosity.
From ages 2 – 5, curiosity shifted from the home to the environment, play school and what they observed from people. At this age, they wanted to do things on their own. When we visited a park they wanted to climb on the jungle gym and up the slide without any help. Peeping out the car window, staring in amazement at their surroundings. They started discovering crawling insects, other animals, nature and differences in gender, body shapes and private body parts. They were very inquisitive. Every question asked started with “how”, “when” and mostly “why”.
“Why do lizards change colour?”
“Why are there stars in the sky?”
“Where do babies come from?
“Why are people shaped differently and have different skin colour?”
“How come daddy stands when using the toilet and we sit?”
“Why do boys have penises and girls have vaginas?”
Yes my children asked those questions and used those words. Somehow we never used the words “willy or fanny” to describe private body parts. We wanted them to know from a young age what it was. Explaining this, we also made them aware that nobody should touch them inappropriately. And should it happen, they should tell us. Of course, it was followed with another question “why”. All these questions we tried to answer as honest as possible but still bearing in mind their innocence.
From age 6 up
From age 6 till present they are still very curious. Questions like why do women menstruate, why hair grow on different parts of the body and how breast develop seems to be of interest. This is all part of the cycle of learning.
Please never tell your children that they are asking silly questions. There is no such thing as a silly question. And never say this – it is just the way it is. Give them the attention and listen to what they inquiring about. Even if you don’t know how to answer certain questions and it makes you feel uncomfortable just try and answer it in any quirky way.
We also try and let them figure things out on their own. Don’t provide them with all the answers. Pose questions back at them to prolong the curiosity. Rather say let’s explore together and encourage them to think.
Just today my 7 year old daughter asked me “Are there more right handed people than left handed people in the world?”
I replied and said that’s a great question and I never thought about it. I then asked her what her thoughts were on the matter.
She said: ” I think there are more right-handed people.”
Asking why she said that, she justified her answer with “well in our immediate family, only Pa is left-handed and all of us are right-handed, my friends are all right-handed and in my class only one girl is left-handed.
So I think there are more right-handed people.”
I then told her let’s check what google says – sometimes google comes to the rescue.
In fact there are more right-handed than left-handed people.
I suppose as my kids enter their teenage years, their curiosity will shift to questions about sex, boys, relationships and heaven knows what else. I need to prepare myself mentally on how I’m going to answer all those questions.
Things you can do to help nurture your child’s curiosity
- Don’t be too cautious, let your baby crawl and climb up and explore.
- Take your child to the park and let them climb on the jungle gym, slide and play on other equipment. Don’t restrict them if they are not in any immediate danger.
- Whilst in the park, explore what else is there like squirrels, ducks, different trees, pine cones etc.
- Do a scavenger hunt by giving them a list of objects they need to collect in the park.
- When driving in the car, point things out to them and play games like “I spy” or “spot the difference”; this not only sparks curiosity but encourages observation.
- Deviate from your normal route and tell your child, “let’s see where this road takes us”.
- Read to your child from a very young age and instill this love for reading. Reading sparks curiosity as they want to know what will happen next.
- Buy the National Geographic Kids magazines for your child – this is excellent for them to read up on animals and nature.
- Instead of your child playing with his/her normal toys, give them an empty cereal box, yoghurt containers, empty toilet roll holders to play with. Let them construct things with it by giving them glue, crayons and scissors. See how their curiosity sparks creativity.
- Let them paint and allow them to discover new colours when they mix primary colours with another colour.
- Take your child to the beach; let them discover different sea shells, sea weed, periwinkles.
- Curious about space, take your child to the planetarium.
- Don’t give them all the answers, but allow them to try and figure things out on their own.
- Curious about science, take your child to the science centre.
Have fun exploring and continue to nurture that curiosity!