There’s a long list of things we want to teach to our children: How to be patient, how to express gratitude, and how to be kind to others. But there’s one positive trait that doesn’t need an instruction manual, and that’s curiosity! Kids are naturally curious creatures! Research shows us that we’re all are born with a natural sense of curiosity and desire to understand the world around us. However, this instinctual curiosity needs to be nurtured so our kids will continue to be curious throughout their lives.
Benefits of Developing Curiosity
Experts have found that a healthy dose of curiosity in early childhood offers several long-term benefits. Studies suggest that children who are highly curious also experience a strong sense of satisfaction in life, are more open-minded, excel in academic performance, and are even known for having a rich sense of humor. Curiosity is also linked to kindness and a deep understanding of empathy. Lastly, one unsurprising benefit is that curious children will have a life-long desire to learn.
Tips for Encouraging Curiosity
Infants and babies yearn for stimulation and toddlers are famous for asking millions of questions. When parents and caregivers are aware of these curious moments, they can support and reinforce them. Here are a few ways to honor and nurture your child’s curiosity:
Notice the wonder in your own environment.
While our homes and neighborhoods can seem mundane to us, there are thousands of details that can spark the interest of a young child. Throughout babyhood, you can nurture curiosity by exposing your little one to a wide variety of experiences (hint: our BabySparks program is a great way to do this!). Toddlers, with their growing ability to explore and communicate, take curiosity to new level. For instance, you might notice your toddler intently watching the garbage truck circling the block. Build on his wonder by pointing out how strong the truck is when it picks up the heavy bins, and ask him simple questions about what he sees.
Lean into your child’s interests.
If your toddler becomes fixated on watching the garbage truck every day, you can foster this curiosity by bringing in toy trucks or books about dump trucks, bulldozers, or tractors. If she’s curious about dinosaurs, take her to a museum to see real dinosaur bones.
Offer thoughtful answers to questions.
Toddlers are known for asking strings of questions that begin with words like where, what, and why. Try to answer these questions thoughtfully. For more tips on how to do this, head over to our article about why toddlers ask why all the time. If you don’t know the answer, that’s okay too! You can be honest with your toddler when he asks a question: “I actually don’t know how the garbage truck picks up those heavy bins. Maybe we can ask someone who does know!” Use it as an opportunity to learn something together.
Use open-ended questions.
Instead of saying, “Did you have fun at grandma’s house today?” try: “What did you do at grandma’s house today?” Offer more opportunities for your little one to reflect on his experiences and develop a response with more detail, instead of just shooting for ‘yes or no’ answers.
Explore exciting things and places.
Experiences such as going to the movies or listening to live music can cultivate curiosity in an exciting way. Don’t hesitate to bring your toddler to the neighborhood jazz festival, the farmer’s market, or a holiday parade. Watching crowds of people gather together to celebrate something big isn’t only exciting, but it shows him the power of collective interests.
Books, books, and more books!
Trips to the library are always a good idea! Your local library may host events and activities for young children that can spark their interest in a wide variety of topics. And, of course, reading with your child offers endless opportunities for curiosity. Take advantage of children’s book exchanges or ask for books as presents for holidays and birthdays.
Remember, just because little ones are born curious, doesn’t mean we can take it for granted! Active participation from parents and caregivers keeps those curious minds stirring.