Curiosity lies at the core of learning; it is the source of a child’s internal motivation to learn. By helping cultivate your child’s curiosity, you exponentially increase their capacity, and desire, for learning. Here are a few ways you, as a parent and/or teacher, can help your child channel their curiosity into effective learning experiences.
1. Encourage questing. Questioning helps your child realize how much there is to learn and starts them off on paths of exploration. Answers are only important when they lead to to more questions, more curiosity, more learning. And there’s nothing wrong with “wrong” answers. In fact, wrong answers often stimulate further learning as much as, if not more than “right” ones.
2. Include debatable questions your child’s education as much as possible. If you’re homeschooling your child, include debatable questions in their curriculum. If your child goes to school, bring up debatable questions in the afternoons or at the dinner table. Debate stimulates curiosity and pushes us to examine more than one side of a given issue.
3. Give your child countless opportunities to make choices. This allows them to act on their curiosity and learn through experience.
4. Entice your child’s curiosity with the unknown. When it’s story time, stop at exciting moments and ask your child to predict the ending. If you’re teaching your child at home include lots of problem solving opportunities in their learning activities so learning is a constant discovery, rather than memorizing facts and pre-determined answers.
5. Expose your child to a variety of interests, hobbies, subject areas, resources and people. This can help pique their curiosity and give them as many opportunities as possible for exploration and learning.
6. Model curiosity – vocalize your interest in a topic when it arises, and talk through how you will go about learning more about that topic.
7. Encourage collaborative learning. Working with others gives your child more opportunities to notice things they haven’t thought of before but might want to investigate. It gives them a broader perspective on the task at hand, and also allows them to learn new skills from the people they work with.
8. Maintain (and help your child maintain) “academic humility” – the realization that we don’t know everything, as an individual or a society. Believing that we know everything immediately puts a cap on learning. Recognizing that we don’t know everything helps us focus on what’s left to explore and discover.
9. Reward process over product. Encourage and praise your child for their effort and learning process. Encourage them for exploring things they’re curious about. It’s the process that leads to creativity, innovation and further learning.
10. Diversify. Try new things as a family – new foods, new styles, new types of books, etc. This helps your child build their own confidence in taking risks, trying new things and pursuing their curiosity in healthy directions.
11. Encourage your child not to just accept reality, but to understand it. Don’t stop at knowing that something works – find out why it works. Don’t stop at knowing something exists – find out about its life cycle, environment, etc.