Keeping Your Kids Curious

Curious babyKids are naturally curious.  If you’ve spent any time around four-year olds, you know how many times they ask, “Why?”

Because of that curiosity, they explore.  When they discover how to do something they repeat it, over and over again. 

Nobody forces them; they do it for the sheer enjoyment of discovery. 

Most adults have lost that curiosity. We get busy with our lives and our work, and don’t have time to investigate.  After all, what we’re doing is working; why would we want to consider doing it differently?

So where did we lose it?

I think it often happens when kids try to be curious, but it’s not a positive experience for them. 

One psychologist says that there are three main reasons kids quit being curious:

    • Fear.  If a child doesn’t feel safe in his/her environment, they don’t have a secure comfort zone to return to after they’ve been exploring.  A family crisis makes kids uncertain, so they hang tight to whatever they can just to survive.
    • Disapproval.  If parents show disgust when their child comes in with muddy shoes, the kids will quit digging for earthworms and exploring the ground.
    • Absence.  When parents have their back, kids feel safe roaming.  But when parents are physically or emotionally absent, those kids lose the foundation from which they can explore their world.  They also don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with, which is what encourages them to stay curious.

So, how can we make sure our kids keep their curiosity as they move through life?  Here are 10 ways:

    1. Model curiosity. When they’re in the car with you, always take a different route home.  Order something new every time you go to a restaurant. Tell them it’s because you want to know what else is out there.
    2. Ask open-ended questions that allows them to think.  Instead of, “How was school?” ask, “Tell me something you learned today that you didn’t know yesterday.” Instead of, “Who’s you’re best friend?” ask, “What is it about your best friend that makes you want to hang out with them?”
    3. Whenever they demonstrate curiosity, affirm them.  “That’s so interesting – the way you look at that.  I love it when you observe things that nobody else sees.”
    4. Take a walk with them in a crowded area of your city, and listen for sounds that are not man-made – like birds chirping, water running or the wind blowing through trees.  Teach them the value of listening and observing their environment.
    5. Ask the journalist’s questions about everything: Who, What, Where, When, How and Why.
    6. Don’t get bored.  They’re watching.  Whenever you’re bored, acknowledge it, but use it as a trigger to explore something.  Help them develop that pattern.
    7. Teach them that failure is OK.  Failure means you’ve learned one more thing that doesn’t work, so you’re that much closer to success.  Then keep moving forward.  That’s a skill they’ll use the rest of their lives.
    8. Teach them the value of good questions, and make it safe to risk answering – and safe if they’re wrong as well.
    9. Limit their media input.  Sure, TV can be educational – but it’s simply handing them content, not whetting their appetite to explore and question their world.
    10. When they share discoveries with you, don’t add your knowledge to it.  Let it be their moment.  Ask probing questions about what they’ve shared, so they’ll want to explore more – and share more.

Try one or two of those ideas today.  It’ll help your kids stay curious – but it might awaken your curiosity as well!

 

What have you tried that keeps your curiosity sharp? Comment here:

 

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books - including "People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys," "I Wish He Had Come With Instructions," and "Dealing With the Elephant in the Room." (See Book page)

  • Kathy Collard Miller

    Great ideas!

  • Lynn Erickson-Simonson

    Mike: Being in the military, we moved every couple of years which made for natural curiosity on both my kids’ parts and mine as well. It was always a fun experience to move to a different place, experience different people and cultures…and of course find the closest McDonalds! Now that my kids are grown and in the military themselves, I see that same curiosity whenever they get their orders…its been great to see that it never really diminished!

    • That’s rare – but what a gift for them! Thanks for sharing!