Building Lifelong Learners: 5 Ideas to Encourage Your Child’s Sense of Curiosity

Monday, March 6, 2017 -- Elaine Ho

"Why?" "How come?" "I wanna see!" How often have you heard these phrases from your child? Even though the endless questions can feel overwhelming at times, they’re your child’s expression of their innate curiosity—and that curiosity is key to raising a true lifelong learner.

We can learn a lot from our kids' curiosity, and it's important to make cultivating it a priority. For all of us, when we’re curious about something, our ability to learn increases. In a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, researchers found that curiosity makes learning a more rewarding and memorable experience for students. So, what can you as a parent do to encourage curiosity and an excitement for learning in their children? Check out these five tips:

1. Visit the local library

It may sound cliché, but it’s true—a good book can open all kinds of doors to the imagination. That makes the library a great place to begin cultivating your child’s curiosity. Try steering them towards the kids’ non-fiction section for change; they may come across some new topics that pique their interest. As you peruse the shelves together, be sure to point out titles and topics that interest you as well—doing so will encourage your child to do the same, and could even lead to a shared learning journey.

2. Encourage critical thinking in all areas

Get your child's mind moving by asking them to dive a little deeper into the stories that they watch on TV, see in movies, or read about in books, magazines, and newspapers. Ask your child "what if" and "why" questions to help them picture different outcomes, connect events, and understand motivations. This is a great way to instill an always-curious mindset.

3. Embrace a growth mindset

A curious mind is one that is naturally open to possibilities, willing to take some chances, and excited to explore—and those mindsets simply aren’t cultivated if kids are overly concerned about having the “right” answer. So, one of the best ways to encourage your child’s curiosity is to take the stigma away from failure. Help your kids adopt a growth mindset, and embrace the power of experimentation and the value of failure as learning experience. Instead of reacting negatively when your child makes a mistake or performs poorly, simply talk to them about it. What happened? Where did things go wrong—and what did they do right in the process? How would they approach the same situation differently the next time? Simple questions like this can totally reframe an experience for your child.

4. Mix things up

Curiosity is all about exploring the unknown. So, help your child get out of their comfort zone by doing things that will challenge and stretch them to the limit. Sometimes, this may be as simple as adding a new twist to something they already do. For example, if your child loves art projects, encourage them to experiment with a new medium, or sign them up for a class that will focus on a new skill. Family outings can also be a great opportunity to introduce new experiences—attending a community theater performance, getting tickets to a soccer match instead of a baseball game, visiting a new museum, or exploring a state park are just a few ways to give your child an experience that’s out of the ordinary. Pay attention to what makes them light up in the process, and encourage them to continue exploring those activities, skills, or interests.

5. Reward and encourage learning wins

A little motivation never hurts, right? Make a point of encouraging your kids by answering their questions, praising them when they try something new (even if it doesn’t go well!), and sharing in the excitement they express. The best way to reinforce these behaviors is to follow-up by helping your kids dig deeper into their interests in ways they might not be able to on their own. Enroll them in classes, sign them up for interest-groups or teams, take them to events, and help connect them to others with similar interests. Build up their innate curiosity, and you’ll have an enthusiastic lifelong learner on your hands—and far fewer complaints about being bored!

Foundational skills are the building blocks that allow your child to run with their interests. Give them the practice they need in math, reading, science, and social studies with Study Island for Home. Sign up for your free trial today!

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