It's no secret that curiosity is a powerful elixir for learning; when people are curious about something, they learn more, and better. Curiosity drives us to keep learning, to keep trying and to keep pushing forward to fill the gaps in our knowledge. It is at the heart of lifelong learning and considered a valuable trait by many employers. But while curiosity comes naturally to young children, as they age, their curiosity requires more nurturing.
Niki Meehan, Principal of NIS Jakarta – Nord Anglia Education, has over 20 years’ experience in international education. Here, she shares five top tips for expat parents to feed their children’s curiosity.
Ask more questions
Young children constantly ask questions and we often rush to give the answers. However, it is the question that stimulates curiosity; being told an answer quells curiosity before it can even get going. So, devote more time to asking genuinely interesting questions — ones that open information gap and feed curious minds. More asking – less telling.
Try new things
We’re not curious about something we know absolutely nothing about but as soon as we know even a little bit, our curiosity is piqued. This is why we need to help develop a growth mindset by planning for new experiences that challenge and move children out of their familiar comfort zones and require them to stretch their skills and knowledge to the limit. By repeatedly being curious, children become more open to new experiences, more comfortable dealing with tension and anxiety, and more resilient.
Value and reward curiosity
Often, the temptation is to reward children when their curiosity leads to a desired outcome such as good grade or project. But it's more important to notice and reinforce curiosity when you see it in action. Describe how their questions, explorations, and investigations are contributing to great learning and giving rise to even more questions. Let them know that their curiosity is making their mind stronger and smarter. Let them know you are impressed by their curious mind and creativity.
Provide alternative perspectives
Children need to be taught to be open-minded and flexible thinkers. Through actions and words, we need to show that there is always more than one perspective. We need to encourage them to learn about and from others, rather than falling prey to stereotypes. Discuss the news, travel, join a club. Provide great opportunities for children to develop the intellectual confidence to challenge and be challenged.
Parents can have a big influence in awakening and cultivating curiosity in children and the best way to encourage children's curiosity is to stay curious ourselves. As we get older, we tend to fall back on what we know, but curiosity is like a muscle: it atrophies without use. To keep it strong, we need to adopt the perspective of young children, and remain intensely conscious of what we don't know. We need to be good role models for our children.
At NIS, every day our skilled teachers provide rich opportunities to nurture curiosity in all our children. We know that children can't feel great all the time but they can almost always be open-minded, and curious. And, with this mindset, they are liable to “catch” happiness and feel more fulfilled in their school and personal lives.
So, add a little fuel to your child’s learning by feeding their curiosity!