Curiosity: Keep is Alive, Keep it Active!

by Matthew Worwood

We’re are all born with natural characteristics that allow us to think creatively, unfortunately many of these characteristics diminish as we grow older and interact with society. There’s a hot debate about education and how some of its methodology might be negatively impacting our creativity. We regularly talk about originality and how children have the ability to engage their imagination to produce and consider many alternative uses and activities with everyday objects. Play is another obvious activity that engages the imagination and allows creativity to flourish, but for me one of the most useful characteristics that we squander as we grow is our curiosity for the world around us. Sitting back and watching my six-month old boy look around a new room always gets me wondering… ‘What’s he looking at now’, ‘what does he make of the television screen, the moon, the stars, the new wall paper’. ‘What does he think they are?’ ‘Something to eat?’ Probably, he’s a baby who’s about to start teething, but we know that as soon as the terrible twos arrive, and even worse, the threes (which I’m living now with my eldest), this characteristic will surpass these basic survival instincts and begin to engage his imagination so that his curiosity can challenge him to explore his world. Unfortunately, he’s likely to get into trouble along the way and as parents we’ll be quick to deliver punishments when his or her curiosity takes them to the electrical plugs, the air vents, the fragile glass objects sitting on the coffee table, and every other thing that you’re quietly chuckling to yourself about right now.

But we have to remember that curiosity is one of the most important characteristics to keep alive in our children, to keep active, but it’s also one of the most challenging. You see curiosity leads to questions that we want to answer, because it makes our children ‘smarter’.  We can brag that our child knows where the sun goes at night, and why the leaves turn a different color in the Fall. Obviously Science has provided us with answers that we want to share and will learn about at school. But lets back up and ask how we came to these answers? It was the curiosity of past scientists or scholars who had a question and wanted to find out the answer. Scientists regularly utilize curiosity to generate new knowledge for our society, so lets be conscious of its value and do our best to cultivate it as parents and educators. I’ve shared a few ideas below that I practice at home.

  1. LUCAS: Daddy where does the sun go at nighttime? DADDY: Where do you think it goes at nighttime? He’s way to young to start talking about the gravity and the shape of our planet!
  2. Take Nature Walks in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Nothing is better at engaging my son’s curiosity for the world around him then finding insects. Challenge them to think where an ant leaves, spiders go, frogs swim, etc. When you find an instinct catch it, take it home, and examine it with your little one. Ask them to count the legs, guess what they eat, investigate the colors. Once they’ve compiled some information in their head I then reach for the iPad and get some ‘Wow’ facts to share. After this experience I always let them go.
  3. Allow them to examine their bodies. Within reason. My three year old does far too much examining of certain parts of his body, but he has begun to discover bones, and muscle which we’ve begun to talk about. He’s even developed curiosity about his size and which parts of his body will grow. These are great questions for a three year old to start asking.
  4. Providing that it’s not scary! Watch some nature and dinosaur documentaries on TV. Dinosaurs have a massive Wow factor for infants!
  5. Ok this is a tough one. Monitor how you respond to his curiosity when it gets him into trouble. We need to be careful that he doesn’t stop exploring objects because he’s scared he’ll get into trouble. If he reaches for something fragile, try and get it before he does, but then careful allow him to explore it and explain why you might not want him to hold it. This will likely lead into a variety of new questions that allow you to divert your attention away from the fragile object.
  6. Finally, children will be curious about the objects that dominate the life of their parents. It’s a big tease to not let them touch the remote controller, sit in the driving seat of a car, or event get to touch the keyboard of your computer. Supervise, supervise, supervise, but don’t shut them out of your world. They’re just too curious!
Matthew Worwood
Matthew Worwood is an educator, Creative Studies scholar-practitioner, and co-host of the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut and a husband and proud father to three young boys.

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