I have to admit, when my children ask me a question and I don't know the answer I sometimes (a) brush off the question saying I don't know, or (even worse) (b) fob them off with a lie I've made up to answer the question. Shocker, sometimes I lie to my kids - shh don't tell anyone!
I'm a teacher so I should really know that I ought to be saying "Oooh good question! I don't know, but shall we find out?" and then looking up the answer together. But frankly life's too hectic to get things right every time.
Did you know though, that as well as the intellectual benefits of curiosity helping us to find out and know more, curiosity can have other benefits too?
1. Curious people are happier.
Research has shown that curiosity is associated with higher levels of positive emotions, lower levels of anxiety, more satisfaction with life, and greater psychological well-being. Who wouldn't want all of these things for their children?
2. Curiosity boosts achievement.
Studies have also shown that curiosity leads to more enjoyment and participation in school and higher academic achievement. It might seem obvious, but when we're more curious about and interested in what we're doing, it’s easier to get involved, put effort in, and do well. Those of us who've done jobs we're just not interested in will understand exactly how this feels!
3. Curiosity can improve empathy and relationships with others
When we're curious about others and talk to people outside our usual social circles, we get better at understanding people with different lives and viewpoints from our own. One study even revealed that people who showed genuine curiosity in a conversation with a stranger were considered to be warmer and more attractive. Showing curiosity about a person can really help to strengthen your relationship with them.
So if curiosity is so great, how can you encourage it in your own child?
Building Curiosity in Your Child
1. Model Curiosity and Answer Questions
Next time your child asks you a question and you have a minute to spare, it's worth taking the time to sit down and find out the answer together. Make sure to sound interested in what you find out! Showing your child you love finding things out too will encourage them to do the same.
2. Observe and Engage Their Interests
We all have different interests and our children do too. As I mentioned above, when we're more curious about and interested in what we're doing, it’s easier to get involved, put effort in, and do well. As parents, we can notice what our children are interested in and then focus on encouraging curiosity in or through those interests. For example, I know my daughters are very interested in princesses (sigh) and character-based play, so when we're doing a STEAM activity together I'll find a way to include a narrative that incorporates their characters or even princesses.
3. Change up the Routine
While a routine is important, especially for younger children, occasionally changing it up or surprising them with something new will make their brain think in a different way, encouraging curiosity. With younger children it's easy to see how something as simple as using a new toothpaste can cause excitement and curiosity.
Disclaimer: I won't be held responsible for any tantrums associated with changing out their favourite cup/bowl/plate etc ;)
4. Travel and Visit New Places
You don't have to visit the Great Wall of China to spark your child's curiosity. Visiting new places even locally will start to increase their curiosity about not only that place but other places they might go to. In adulthood, travel is often seen as a way to satisfy curiosity so setting up this habit early will help them to exercise curiosity in later life too.