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BONUS: How to raise a world problem solver
Truth -- children are naturally inquisitive.
Even before they master the ability to speak and ask questions, kids are watching, pointing, inquiring; they’re learning about the world almost immediately. Then, as they grow older, that learning morphs into questions - lots of questions; sometimes from the moment their tiny, fast feet hit the floor in the morning until the moment their busy brains hit the pillow at night.
It is a great responsibility to raise a child; it is also a great opportunity. Introducing children to this wide world is exciting; yet, many parents and caregivers can feel burdened and overwhelmed by the expectation to teach so much and provide every best possible thing — object, experience, event — for their children.
Don’t fret - there is good news. When it comes to raising kids who interact boldly with the world, kids who are innovative problem solvers, it doesn’t have to be that heavy — or very hard.
In fact, it can be quite fun because curiosity is on your side.
Curiosity is a great motivator, and, if encouraged properly, can lead children into self-propelled discovery. The opportunity, at the pre-school and early elementary school age, is simple: Find ways to celebrate curiosity.
By allowing them to lead, modeling curiosity, and — perhaps most importantly — demonstrating uncertainty, children can grow up confident to ask questions, eager to find answers and excited to solve problems. In fact, you just might have the next generation scientist in your family.
Let your child’s interests lead
Curiosity has power. When a child is eager to learn about something, they will retain their findings better. Daisy Yuhas, writing for the The Hechinger Report at KQED, puts it this way: “When we’re hungry for answers, our brain activity changes in ways that help us retain new information… We want to learn more because the answers are satisfying… The more we want to know an answer, research suggests, the more memorable it becomes.”
What is profoundly important here is the feedback loop of attention. As Yuhas says, the answers are satisfying and if the child is eager to learn, the information is more memorable.
In Yuhas’ research, she found a positive correlation between a teacher’s enthusiasm for learning and the students’ desire to learn.
Sharing in the interest of topics is a great place to start. Ask reciprocal and relative questions pertaining to a child’s curiosity. Doing so validates their interest.
Another equally important way to model curiosity is to do it; be curious. Adults — especially those providing care for young children — tend to overlook their own interests. It is very valuable for children to observe curiosity in action.
Asking questions aloud; searching for answers; sharing the findings, are simple and effective ways by which to model curiosity.
Uncertainty is a funny, fickle thing; it is rarely considered a positive, but, in the realm of celebrating curiosity, it is of great value. According to Yuhas, uncertainty relates to perceived gaps in knowledge.
“Admitting to not knowing something opens up an opportunity for learning,” she says. This is a remarkable opportunity. Similar to modeling curiosity, it is teaching a child how to pursue an interest. Dissimilar, however, it teaches a positive association for a potentially negative event.
What is being taught here is more than just engaging curious minds, it is teaching children how to respond to a gap in their knowledge. This is why this practice of demonstrating uncertainty is — perhaps — of greatest value to young kids.
Finding out what a child is curious about is easy; all that is needed is observation by you. What are they always asking about? What books, TV shows, apps, games are they drawn to?
Curiosity may have done a number on the cat, but we see it as one of the most important tools to raising highly adaptable children. Children who will grow into the next generation of innovative thinkers, problem solvers, and game changers.