Have you noticed that we as adults somehow, ask much fewer questions? Children are so full of curiosity and questions, but what happens as part of growing up, that erodes this ability in us? Have you ever wondered?
I have to take references from the book, Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown, as she captured it so perfectly.
Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. We have to ask questions, admit to not knowing, risk being told that we shouldn’t be asking and sometimes make discoveries that lead to discomfort.
Our “childlike” curiosity is often tested as we grow up and we sometimes learn that too much curiosity, like too much vulnerability, can lead to hurt. As a result, we turn to self-protection — choosing certainty over curiosity, armour over vulnerability, knowing over learning. But shutting down comes with a price — a price we rarely consider when we are focussed on finding the way out of pain.
In the book, it is further stated how important Curiosity is as per the recent research
Research shows, that curiosity is correlated with creativity, intelligence, improved learning and memory and problem-solving. That curiosity is an irreducible component of courageous Leadership.
To be the leaders of our lives, we ought to rekindle this art of curiosity. To make our children leaders in their lives, we ought to make sure we don’t suppress this innate art of curiosity/ art of asking questions in them. Else, we would be paying a price, a price we can’t comprehend today if we are shortsighted.
So my thoughts, on how we could nurture our children’s innate art of curiosity.
1. STOP using the statement— “ Don’t you know, even this?”
“ It’s such an easy/obvious thing to know.” or “ For your age and experience, you should be knowing the answer for this.”
I am not really sure if by shaming them, we are able to make them realise their mistake or make them more diligent or industrious. But what this shaming will surely do, is make them not question, the next time.
I agree that as a parent or as an adult, we have certain expectations for our children to be aware of certain facts/information/knowledge. When there is a mismatch in this expectation, we do get triggered. However, by shaming them, we are missing the opportunity to understand where the gap lies and why. More ideas about their learning style, their challenges and their perspective could be explored with this discovery instead. And can be used for future learnings of theirs.
2. Let them explore or explore together by using books or videos or museum visits
Children have a lot of questions in general. Instead of directly giving the answer in statements, we could nudge them to explore these big, informative, rich illustration books. It not only makes them independent to find answers by themselves but also teaches many other skills, like understanding the index, knowing the numbers etc. And in the process of sifting through the pages for their answer, they discover many other interesting facts and pictures that capture their imagination and bring awe or trigger new questions. In short, might ignite interest in a new topic which is necessary to have curiosity.
Watching videos of Nat Geo or Planet Earth or movies related to a particular topic like let’s say Mummies of Egypt or deadly snakes of the World etc can also satiate their thirst at the same time, build interest and excitement to know more, explore more and ask more.
Also, nurturing their interests, be it in Dinosaurs by visiting a museum or in Sea Animals by visiting an aquarium, might be another way to sustain their habit of asking questions.
In short, by making the process of knowing the answers more enjoyable, and fun by doing it together with them, we are making the experience of asking questions exciting. This might make them continue to ask questions and be curious to know more.
This idea further got a boost when I read the following
George Loewenstein in an article “ The Psychology of Curiosity” explains that simply encouraging people to ask questions don’t go very far toward stimulating curiosity. To induce curiosity about a particular topic, it may be necessary to ‘prime the pump’ — to use intriguing information to get folks interested so they become more curious and create opportunities for exposure to new ideas and experiences.
3. Discover their interests and build projects around them
This is something I learned while pursuing a course on Early Childhood Education based on Reggio Emilia at the University of British Columbia.
Project work is not a method one uses after the “real” teaching has occurred; instead, it is a foundational approach enabling children to be self-motivated learners equipped with the skills to do in depth investigations of topics worth learning (Elliott, 1998)
Most of the education systems around us rely on a static curriculum or a pre-planned curriculum based on the teacher/school/education board/’s interests or agenda. Whereas when each child is unique and carries their own independent interests, can these static curricula really cater to the child’s interest?
Ok, now we can’t go around and change the education system, instead, we can pick a thing or two from this philosophy of Project-based approach in Reggio Emilia.
In the Reggio Emilia Approach, the children develop projects according to their own areas of interest; therefore, this approach uses a “curriculum developed by children” instead of a “curriculum prepared for children”.
Project work gives children an opportunity to discover and explore an area of interest in detail. Project-based work may last a day, a week, a month, or even longer depending on the child’s interest.
Children are more absorbed in learning as the projects are derived from their interests. So there is a deeper involvement from the Child’s end to contribute and participate. This involvement itself will make the Child learn a lot.
By noticing what the child is talking about, what they are playing, what their questions are around, and following patterns we can assume certain topics that might excite them. Further by questioning we could explore with them around the topic and decide on the scope of the project. And it’s not an end, but a continuous cycle of inquiry. Yes, it does, demand the parent to be more observant and let go of their biases. Yet, it acts as a further step in discovering our child’s interests, nurturing them and observing them.
Einstein said, “ The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence”.
Thank you for reading my thoughts. Would love to hear your ideas about it.