“Why, why, why?”: Embracing and encouraging curiosity

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Encouraging Creativity

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

One of my favorite parts of being a teacher, and that I now love as a parent, is spending time with little ones who approach life with wondering, questioning, and exploring. Curiosity truly is a gift, and kids have it in abundance.

I strive to keep a zest for learning in my own life, and I also want to nourish that love of learning in my girls as they grow. Here are some of the ways we’re keeping the spark of curiosity in our daily life:

1. Slow down.

This one goes first, because I think it’s the most important. Kids need space in their day when there is no plan or structure. They need time to dawdle, daydream, and doodle. They need to follow their own interests and make their own observations. They should be bored sometimes and work their way out of it.

Keeping screen time in check is a good way to protect your child’s unstructured play time.

And, guess what? Grown-ups need all of this, too, which is probably why I only seem to have interesting ideas when I’m showering or trying to fall asleep at night. I’m trying to give myself more of this kind of time during the day – even if it’s just 15 minutes of letting my mind wander.

2. Write down questions and wonderings.

When my girls were toddlers and preschoolers, I used to jot down their funny questions and observations in my journal. When they got a little older, we would make posters or lists together of things we were interested in. We’ve kept a pad of sticky notes by our sliding glass door, and covered the window with our questions about the world.

Kids’ questions can come fast and furious sometimes. Validate their inquisitiveness by writing down their questions. Look together for the answers sometimes. It’s good to keep a list of all the things your family is interested in; you never know what may become a passion later on.

Our current record-keeping for questions is a stack of index cards on a ring. Sometimes, we bring our cards with us to the library and choose a question to research. Every once in a while, a question sparks a deeper interest, and we lug home a big stack of books on the topic for further research. It’s a wonderful chain-reaction of curiosity.

library-research

3. Read lots of great books.

After reading The Penderwicks, my girls wanted to learn Latin and become botanists. Frindle inspired their love for the dictionary and creating silly new words. There are so many rich and inviting books to transport you and your kids to different places and times. Reading great books fuels the imagination, builds vocabulary, and sparks interest. Read, read, read!

4. Curate a kid-friendly reference book shelf at home.

My girls love to read the dictionary. And, lately, they have been spinning the globe, landing on a country, and looking it up in the atlas. I recently rounded-up all our kid-friendly reference books from various spots around the house, and now find the girls using them a lot more. Plus, it’s fun to say “Check the reference shelf.” Ha!

Here are some books you might include on your reference shelf:

  • Children’s dictionary and thesaurus
  • Rhyming dictionary
  • World atlas
  • Foreign language books
  • Field guides for trees, insects, mammals, etc.
  • Star chart
  • Animal encyclopedia
  • How-to books (drawing, writing poetry, cooking, science experiments)

reference-books

5. Be data-collectors.

There are all kinds of things to observe, count, record, and graph. We’ve made weather charts, tallied the various birds in our backyard, drawn moon phases for a whole month, and surveyed our friends and family about favorite foods and movies. This is meaningful work for kids, not to mention the math and thinking skills they’re building.

6. Provide access to creative materials and real tools (and junk, too).

Kids don’t need a ton of materials to inspire creativity and exploration. In fact, I would argue that less is more. However, it is nice to have some kid-friendly art materials available, a sketch book or journal, and a few real tools to try out. My girls enjoy using magnifying glasses, binoculars, a compass, and a student microscope. (Here’s the microscope we have – it’s affordable and awesome!)

Don’t throw all your egg cartons and cardboard tubes in the recycling. Whether you call it a junk box or an invention kit, kids will have a great time creating all kinds of crazy contraptions. Don’t forget the tape! We go through rolls and rolls of tape – can you relate?

Here’s to wondering, dreaming, questioning, and exploring! What are your kids curious about? How about you?

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About AmyA

At her blog, Let’s Explore, Amy shares her family’s experiences creating, imagining, and playing together. You can read about her homeschooling journey at Early Bird Homeschool.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace

Comments

  1. Slowing down is so important, and something we are constantly having to assess in our home. We actually made the decision to withdraw from one of our weekly activities after the holiday break because we felt that while it was good opportunity, it wasn’t the best season for our family. I love your ideas for keeping a record of their inquisitive minds and encouraging their exploration of the world.
    Gina´s latest post: age appropriate chores and free printable chore cards

  2. Yes! Tape AND paper. We just seem to consume them as if they were water or bread. My kids love to draw and write, to invent stories and to create books…

    Thanks for all the creative ideas, I think I will use some of them at home from now on!
    Paula´s latest post: Por sus defectos

  3. Oh yes. We go through crazy amounts of tape and scrap paper. My kiddo currently likes to make masking tape spider webs throughout the house. :)
    Steph´s latest post: Getting Outside in Winter Time

  4. I love the idea of writing all the questions down! It would be nice to have something like that to look back on all in one place! I find that my kids are the most creative when I let them be. I have been working hard to let them be as creative as they want (even though that typically means a big mess), and I find they stay engaged longer, and are incredibly proud of whatever they come up with.
    Heather´s latest post: a scarf and some books

  5. Absolutely yes!!!
    My husband and I don’t have children yet but I remember all the years after my parents divorced and my maternal grandmother watched me while my mother worked. Missy, as I call her, spent hours with me, encouraging me to explore my world. Sometimes it was as simple as drawing with me. I still remember this time we were writing stories together. My story was something overly dramatic about river otters and Missy’s was called ” The Little Old Lady Who Was All Alone”. It was the funniest thing, with lines like ” everyone had moved away, even the cat” and ” before bed, she ate her last piece of bread and a cold potato”. Now I’m a homemaker/ comic artist. I know that the time Missy spent with me exploring what I could do and what the world has to offer helped form my storyteller’s heart.

    I hope to use this advice and my grandmother’s model to pass on even greater curiosity and creativity to our future little ones!
    Rachel´s latest post: Way Too Many Goals

  6. I truly believe in allowing lots of wide open, unstructured play time. I always think, “Necessity is the mother of invention” – if we don’t let our kids get a little bored they won’t be “forced” to create their own fun.
    Love your ideas, Kelly! I think we’ll be more intentional about creating a resource shelf – we have all those sorts of books, but they are spread out everywhere on our bookshelves!
    Robin from Frugal Family Times´s latest post: Craft Idea: DIY Snowflake Window Clings

  7. Such fun! I just added the Penderwicks to my to-read shelf on Goodreads. :)

    My daughter (2.5) is currently obsessed with the alphabet. We spell all the time, she looks for letters on signs everywhere, and she loves sounding out easy words (D-A-D! Dad!).

    I was a French major, so I default there… and have taught her to sing the French ABCs too. We also read a lot – English and French picture books. I hadn’t really thought about data collecting though, I love that idea!
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s latest post: What Eleanor’s Reading: A List of Five

  8. Oh bravo!!! Brilliant post… I am so for free hours in a day and leaving a couple of tempting resources lying about!!! Curiosity is such a key factor. In the olden days, before kids, when I worked in science and we looked for kids to sponsor through university, it wasn’t good grades that we looked for but rather creative and curious kids… those were the ones that would be able to succeed and stay inspired and handle the work load enthusiastically.
    se7en´s latest post: A Weekend of GiveAways: An Awesome Scientific Selection of Sibo Books…

  9. Yes, we go through many rolls of tape, too! The latest thing we’ve done is mapping our local town down on the playroom floor and adding the places of business. Along with education is the fun of pushing their toy cars and trucks and tractors along the ‘roads’.

  10. I love that you emphasize boredom. Our culture today is too filled with pressure on parents to keep kids entertained while boredom fosters so much more creativity and self-reliance. I’ve watched my daughter go through roll after roll of masking tape and my son create all kinds of imaginative games with sticks. And yes, as adults we need this too – my husband is an incredibly creative person and problem solver – and he never goes near a computer.
    Great ideas for sparking curiosity and following through with learning how to find answers!
    Sarah @ FitFamilyTogether´s latest post: Update On The Flu Survival Guide

  11. It must be lovely to be a child in your house. :)
    Danya Banya´s latest post: Hi! It’s only me…

  12. I love the idea to write down questions for later. My son is currently in love with our children’s encyclopedia and our picture atlas. Love seeing all his questions !
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau´s latest post: be still

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