“Why is the sky blue?”
“What makes chili peppers hot?”
“Where do butterflies go at night?”
“When will I be grown up?”
How many of these questions can I answer without looking them up in Wikipedia? (Actually? None. I would have to say, “Let’s find out together.”)
How long has it been since I was asked these kinds of questions?
When a child asks these types of questions, how do we answer?
What kinds of questions does your child ask? Can you hear the developmental growth in the kinds of questions that are being asked?
It was just a while ago that my child was asking “How do you make paint?” And then my 15 year-old was asking, “If I get my driver’s license in May, and buy a car in June, I should be able to drive cross-country in July, don’t you think so?”
One of the hallmarks for measuring intelligence is CURIOSITY.
Children come with formatted, hardwired neurological “bent” for being curious. As infants they are attracted to movement and color, Mama’s smell and trying to roll over and play with their toes. As toddlers, the universe has suddenly opened up with their ability to transport themselves and inspect in-between, behind, and above. As pre-schoolers, they are enjoying the ability to verbally communicate everything that their senses relate to them.
Depending upon many factors, children seem to go “underground” with their verbalized curiosity somewhere between five and seven years of age.
I believe it becomes a parental responsibility to encourage the questions to keep coming. The easiest way to promote a healthy sense of curiosity is to:
A) Role model your own curiosity in a non-judgemental way. (For example, at dinner one night, you ask “I wonder how many different beans there are in the whole world?” After dinner, you get on the computer/pull out the “fact book for all time”/call your expert gardener friend/etc and report back with, “There are 21 categories of beans, from coffee beans to garbanzo beans to green beans. Let’s plant some beans and see what happens.”)
B) Play the “Question Game.” Much like the “I spy” game, the “Question (or WHY) game” goes something like this: “Why do some dogs tails curl up?” “What happens to non-recycled plastic?” “Where is Myanmar” “What is bentonite ?” “How many pounds of sugar does the average kid eat in the United States vs. the amount eaten in Lapland?” “Where the heck is Lapland?”
C) Do your homework, and also ask questions of others. Be curious about how things work, how others live, how the world is going to survive. All of this in front of your kids. Let them see the enjoyment you get out of being curious.
As we age, we slowly succumb to the knowledge that we brought out of childhood and often feel the most comfortable staying within that restrictive, self-imposed environment. I believe that by challenging ourselves to unfamiliar surroundings, we heighten our ability to enjoy childhood for a very long time.
Give yourself and your child a lifetime of joyful, playful, child-like discovery–be CURIOUS!