How can we encourage curiosity in Early Childhood?

We are all born with the innate skill of curiosity, that strong desire is there, present in the baby from birth.

It is our job as Early Childhood Educators to inspire and nurture an inquisitive mind in every child. It can be easily achieved from the environment we create, to the questions we ask. However, Dr Bruce Perry tells us about three common ways adults can crush the curious child’s learning: fear, disapproval and absence. A fearful child will be unwilling to explore and be curious, preferring to seek the familiar over anything new. The constant “don’t touch”, “don’t climb”and “don’t do that”, disapproval that children hear from the adult so often can also diminish the child’s willingness to be curious. With the absence of an invested adult, the child may not be as curious without that boundary of safety and someone to share in the discovery and joyfulness of learning with the child.

The world of a young child is full of new foods to taste, new people to meet, new games to play, words to understand, places to visit, and concepts to master. The infant and toddler will touch, taste, smell, climb over, poke at, take apart, watch, listen, and learn more than at any other time in life. It is, simply how we learn;  secure beginnings.

“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 should be curiosity".– Eleanor Roosevelt

Dr Perry suggest tips to nurture your child’s curiosity:

  • Encourage children through their interests. Observe children, wait, watch and wonder and set up those provocations to learning child’s interests.
  • Ask open ended questions, to encourage discussion and conversation and to fan the flames of a child’s curiosity. Ask questions like: why, what, who, when and where.
  • Answer questions with enthusiasm. Respond to your child’s questions thoughtfully. If you don’t know the answer, research and seek out the answers together from the internet, books or experts. Help them feel comfortable with feelings of not knowing something, and also help them realise the excitement of resolving uncertainty.
  • Be mindful and follow a child’s interest, in that very moment see where the learning takes them and you. Redirect interests when necessary. For example If a child is exploring the painting area and has forgotten to put an apron n, instead of mindlessly demanding or instructing an apron should be worn, pause and consider what will happen if you halt this opportunity for learning and curiosity? Will the moment of creativity and exploration be lost?
  • You can do this in your respectful relationships with children by exploring their interests, expanding upon their ideas, and engaging them in meaningful dialogue about what matters most
  •  Choose play materials intelligently. Loose parts and open-ended resources ensure that they offer endless possibilities of curiosity and play.
  • Allow children to collect things. Encourage children to collect bit and bobs, items that intrigue and fascinate them beautiful seashells or smooth unusual pebbles or natural resources. Since time began children have always loved to collect random loose parts and to encourage these collections, enables children to see how valuable their treasure are and this in turn sparks curiosity and the desire to search further.
  • Provide them with tools for exploration. Give them a magnifying glass, buckets, a measuring tape, sand, clay, water and measuring cups for their investigations. Allow children the time and space, sadly scheduled days leave no room for pockets of boredom and children are constantly ushered from one activity to the next. Allow time and space to tinker, potter, explore and investigate nurtures a curious mind.

 Is there a "teachable moment" that will spark a desire to search for answers? How can you invite children to see problems as mysteries waiting to be solved?

“Research suggests that curiosity can be linked to a wide range of important adaptive behaviours, including tolerance of anxiety and uncertainty, positive emotions, humour, playfulness, out-of-the-box thinking, and a noncritical attitude -- all attributes associated with healthy social outcomes”.

In an academic world where scores, targets and conforming to the school establishment, starts to inhibit a child’s natural curiosity. We must nurture this innate desire and prevent the negativity labels and connotations given to the word curious as children get older.

To be curious, takes on a new meaning - to be noisy! To step over a line and ask too many questions, to challenge authority? It’s sad to say, as targets, tests and league tables start to become more important that nurturing that natural intrinsic desire to learn, be curious and to seek knowledge and answers. Instead children are fed with information in a set curriculum, order and distribution of facts. 

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” - Yeats

"For the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting” - Plutarch, from Ian Kidd’s translation of Essays

The Curiosity Approach® is a 21st Century pedagogy inspired by Reggio Emilia, Rudolph Steiner, Maria Montessori and Emmi Pikler. We believe children are innate learners, totally capable and confident to seek answers, to explore investigate and to be curious.

Loris Malaguzzi said, "we want to be sure that the desires, interests, intelligences and the capacity for enjoying and seeking - which are a child's inborn resources - do not remain buried and unused".

"Children who are valued and not hurried through their early childhood will become enthusiastic, motivated and active learners" says Janni Nicol, Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship.

Maria Montessori said, "And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but by virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for spontaneous activity in a special environment made for the child".

Sadly in our children’s modern day world, plastic electronic toys are becoming so intelligent that they play more than the child.

Bright flashing lights, moving parts, buttons and noises entertain children instead of allowing them to be active learners. Children are passive in their play, being entertained instead immersed in the joy and happiness of deep engagement, exploring, investigating and exploring.

Children are losing the ability to think and to PLAY!

We need to step back, make room for time to think, tinker & potter. To stop filling every moment and opportunity to entertain our children with bells and whistles, gadgets and screens and allow our children opportunities to be curious.

To be curious

Have fun

And make a difference! 

Are you curious to learn more about this 21st Century pedagogy which is sweeping the nation and across the globe. Currently in 21 countries and followed by over 200k on Facebook and social media 

Seek further articles here and fan the flames of your own curiosity. Together we can do more. 

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