Young children are naturally curious. They have an itch to explore their world and figure out how things work. And parents have compelling reasons to foster this inherent inquisitiveness.Curiosity is tied to academic achievement, with research showing “unequivocally that when people are curious about something, they learn more, and better.” According to one study, children whose parents encouraged them to ask questions were more likely to succeed in science. Curiosity also drives creativity, or as writer Elizabeth Gilbert notes, creativity is the natural byproduct of a “curiosity-driven life.”
Here’s one simple trick to raising curious kids: pay attention to their questions.
A one-year-old child’s first question is usually: “What’s that?”—or as my kids pronounced it, “Dat?” They want help naming their world—what they see, hear, taste, smell and feel. From there, the questioning steadily evolves.
For example, like most four-year-olds, my daughter is fascinated with “Why?” Yesterday, as an experiment, I wrote down each of her questions. Here is a small sampling:
- Why can’t I drink water and breathe at the same time?
- Why do slugs make slime?
- Why do walruses have tusks?
- Why are they called hot dogs if they aren’t made from dogs?
- Why does the sun go to bed later in the springtime?
And then there are the unspoken questions that can sometimes seem like misbehavior. My curious two-year-old spends much of his time asking himself, “What will happen if . . . ?” In the last few days, he has wondered:
- What will happen if I drop this egg on the floor?
- What will happen if I press this button?
- What will happen if I put a ukulele on top of my block tower?
- What will happen if I flush Mommy’s toothbrush down the toilet?
For parents, children’s unending questions can challenge our knowledge—and our patience. But if we want to nurture their curiosity, perhaps the best response we can give is simply this: “Good question. Let’s find out.”
To see how to do this successfully, visit PBS Parent.