A Curious Mind

By Bernard Riola, M.D. Pediatrician
KVMH Waimea Alumnus Saint Theresa School[/caption]

Curiosity is something we are born with but does not necessarily continue throughout life. Newborns and infants cannot help but grab, touch, gnaw, and taste everything within reach. This is how they learn about the world around them. This curiosity continues through childhood, but more and more, curiosity has been pushed to the side by activities such as computer games, tablets, and television. Sure, you might be ‘curious’ to know what happens next in a Netflix series, or how a game ends, but this is passive entertainment. Information is just being fed rather than trying to actively question, explore, imagine.

Why is curiosity important?

Problem solving – Developing curiosity helps a child grow up to be an innovator. Curiosity allows a child to learn why things happen a certain way, and question if there is another better way to do it. Adults who are not curious do okay, but they are rarely influential, and can live repetitive lives. Curious adults become adventurers, explorers, and leaders, and overall lead happier lives.

Development – Learning ‘core skills’ such as reading, writing, math and science allows us to understand the world. Curiosity and creativity are ‘soft skills’ that are just as important, as it allows children to use their core skills to be useful in real world scenarios. Counters boredom – If your child gets bored and irritable when there is no streaming show to watch or video game to play, they need to work on their curiosity. A curious child can entertain themselves in any environment by letting their mind wander and question why things are the way they are.

How do you foster curiosity in children?

Observational skills – Curious children are better at noticing all the details in their environment. They also tend to be more empathetic if their curiosity extends into other people, because they realize that other people have their own emotions, personalities, and characteristics.

Ask questions – Curiosity begins with asking questions, and children may not know what kinds of questions to ask. So, guide them by asking them open-ended questions. Teach them to use question words like who, what, where, why, and how. Play the “I wonder . . . “game with them, as in, “I wonder why leaves are green?”

Answer questions – There is a certain time in a child’s life when they start asking lots and lots of questions. We are all guilty of answering, “I don’t know.” or “I’m busy, ask me later.” Do these enough times and children stop questioning. Try to give them the best answer you can, in simple understandable term. If you are not sure, it’s okay to let them know! Then take the time to look up the answer in a book, google search, or video. This sets them up to learn how to learn on their own.

Buy the right toys, or none – Some open-ended toys are great for curiosity, such as Play-Doh, Lego, and drawing supplies. However, many other toys direct children to play with them a certain way, requiring no creativity at all. Instead of buying a premade fort or castle, give them a big box and markers and see what they create. Instead of buying bath toys, give them some measuring cups, a few clean sponges, and a funnel and let them figure out what to do.

Make time for unstructured play – Some games are meant to be learned with a certain set of rules to follow. However, make time for play that is unstructured, where there is no definable purpose, rules are made up and then changed on the go. Help them along by giving them a variety of objects and encourage them to find novel ways to incorporate them into their game.