How do you cultivate curious kids?

This blog encapsulates my efforts, for better or for worse, to spark my kids’ curiosity and to keep that fire burning, especially if/when they meet the traditional public school environment. Recently, I’ve become very interested in how my efforts correlate with what the experts say are important ingredients for fostering curiosity.

In his Huffington Post article, George Mason University Professor Todd Kashdan identifies six things parents can do to encourage curiosity. Here are some of my takeaways from his article.

  • Teach flexible thinking. There’s never one right way or wrong way to do anything, whether it’s baking a quiche or reading a book. Teach your kids to think in shades of gray rather than black and white. Help them approach questions and problems from multiple angles without fear of failure.
  • Let the kids take the lead. Make sure their activities correlate with their interests most of the time rather than pushing activities onto them. If kids have to participate in an activity they don’t want to, make sure you have a good justification, and explain it to them. For example, you may want your nonathletic child to engage in some physical activity because it’s good for his body.
  • Kids need a lot of opportunities to build self confidence. Provide positive feedback and constructive criticism on their efforts, and make sure they have time for unstructured play where they are the masters of their own kingdom.
  • Children need new experiences and challenges. If your kids love dinosaurs and frequent the natural science museum, make sure you head to an art gallery every once in a while to mix things up. (Note yesterday’s post.) If your child is a pro at building LEGOS following the directions, challenge them to go off-script from time to time and build something from scratch.

I’m interested to hear from you as parents, educators and former children yourselves. What do you think about Kashdan’s theories? How do you foster curiosity in your children? How did your parents help you become the curious adult you’ve become? Please feel free to post your comments below.

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3 responses to “How do you cultivate curious kids?

  1. I was reading a book last night that suggested that sometimes, the parent shouldn’t have the answers, as a way to encourage the child to “continue down the rabbit hole” so to speak. For example, if my son asks me something like what is the “moon made of?”, I don’t have to give him the answer, I can respond with “what do you think?” and then with “thats an interesting idea!” and then say something like “I wonder how they found out….” and so on, to encourage questioning, rather than simply accepting a correct answer.
    Interestng post!

  2. What a wonderful relief to know we don’t have to know everything! I love the idea of using questions to help our kids find their own answers. Have you found this successful with your age group? Sometimes I start down this path, and I get an “I don’t know” and a shrug.

  3. I, too, always asked questions of my boys when they asked a question of me. Not only did they turn out to be gifted as children in grade school and were much smarter than me to begin with but they turned out to be wonderful creative productive adults. ( no not bragging much lol ) 🙂

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