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We all know that curiosity killed the cat - but are you the type who wants to know why?

Inquisitive minds have shaped the world in many different ways and they will continue to play a huge role in dictating our future.  And it all starts right at the beginning - in early childhood.

Children are naturally curious and they have an innate desire to discover and explore, but they do often need a helping hand to nurture and develop their inquisitive instinct.  Parents, caregivers and educators have a really crucial role to play in this regard so that the child’s natural curiosity becomes an eternal flame for lifelong learning. 

Here are six ways to cultivate a child’s curiosity, challenge their thinking and help facilitate their eagerness to discover, explore, learn and construct understanding of the world around them.

1. Answer their questions

Why? Why? Why?  However persistent the child’s questions and no matter how busy you are or how inconvenient or inappropriate the timing of the question is, it’s really important to provide a child with satisfactory and constructive answers.   Try not to be too instructive though (even if you know the answer or if you have strong opinions about something).  If possible, let the conversation develop imaginatively.  You can also answer their questions with a question of your own, such as “Why do you think....?”  By doing this, you’ll show them you value their ideas and their thought processes plus it can lead to other avenues of discovery and exploration. 

And remember that you should initiate questions too.  Asking about their world will encourage independent thought which is a really important precursor for developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they grow up.

2. Spice up storytelling time

Children love story time and they often request the same book over and over again.  It can get pretty dull, right?  A good way to foster their curiosity is to get them to use their imaginations and come up with their own ideas for a start or finish to a familiar story.  Ask your child to imagine how the story would go if there was a different character involved or if parts of the story were changed.   Another idea is to start a story and ask the child to continue it, letting the tale develop naturally without having any preconceived ideas about what should happen.

3. Demonstrate YOUR curiosity

Children learn from adults and if they see you questioning and challenging the world around you, they’ll follow suit.  Look for learning opportunities everywhere.  Say things like “I wonder why we need to put more water in the swimming pool?”  or “Why do you think it gets cooler when the sun goes to bed?”  These types of questions promote discussion and provide opportunities for you to brainstorm and research ideas and answers together with your child.

4.  Expose your child to new things

There are lots of ways you can expose your child to things that aren’t within their usual day-to-day life.  You could take them to an ethnic restaurant to experience a different culture with new tastes, smells and sounds.  You could go to a museum and look for interactive exhibits to explore.  You could take them to a concert or exhibition, the zoo, the aquarium, a different neighbourhood where there are strong cultural influences and so on.   

There are so many ways you can pique their curiosity and expose them to new and exciting things.  A white cut flower in a vase of water with a couple of drops of food colouring will get the conversation flowing (pardon the pun).  Purple carrots for dinner instead of orange ones will be food for thought.   Walking to school one day instead of driving will lead to new paths of discovery.  (If the distance is too great for little legs, you can always park your car closer to school and walk the rest of the way).  Let your imagination run and see theirs take off!

5. Provide them with the appropriate equipment

As the American writer, Dorothy Parker once said: ‘The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.’  A curious child is less likely to be bored, so it’s really important to cultivate their innate desire for discovery by providing them with toys, materials and objects that inspire inquiry-based learning and open-ended play.  

6. Encourage them to pursue their own interests

If your child shows a particular interest for something, encourage it.  For example, if a child seems drawn to music, you could consider getting them an instrument to play.  If they’re fascinated by machines and how they work, look for ways to stimulate that interest such as taking them to an agricultural show, a factory or a newspaper printing house.

These are just some of the ways you can stimulate inquisitive little minds and if you want more ideas, or if you want to find an early learning centre where curiosity is embraced and cultivated, we invite you to visit one of our early education centres in Bibra Lake, Fremantle and Mandurah.   Contact us or get in touch through social media - and we hope to see you soon to show you our nurturing educational philosophy in action.

PS. In case you’re wondering, the phrase ‘curiosity killed the cat’ appears be a mutation of an expression which first appeared way back in 1598 as ‘care killed a cat’.  Its earlier meaning was that excessive worry rather than inquisitiveness would lead to harm, whereas the idiom has now evolved to mean that if people are overly inquisitive about things they need not know (usually other people’s business!), they could get themselves into trouble.

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