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Key Takeaways:

  • Curiosity plays a critical role in child development, making them more eager to learn and explore the world around them.
  • Curious children are more likely to succeed professionally, experience less anxiety, and be more inclusive.
  • Ways you can inspire curiosity in children are to read books, involve them in everyday decisions, and visit museums.

Children are naturally curious—they’ll grab, touch, throw, and gnaw on nearly everything they see. However, children don’t necessarily understand the world around them and need a helping hand.

If you’ve long wondered how to develop curiosity in kids, you can raise a lifelong learner in many ways. This article will explore the benefits of raising curious children and how you can instill a sense of wonder in your kids.

The Importance of Curiosity in Child Development

Children have an innate desire to explore the world around them, which fosters brain development [*]. When children discover new things they like, the brain releases dopamine, which produces positive feelings.

Thus, it’s essential to reinforce curious behavior to encourage them to keep learning about their environment. They become empowered to seek information independently and follow their interests.

As children become inclined to learn, they encounter challenges as learning opportunities instead of obstacles.

Benefits of Fostering Curiosity in Kids

Enriched children are more inclined to learn and engage in social situations. Getting to know kids from different backgrounds fosters empathy, improves friendship skills, and encourages healthier social relationships. Research also shows that curiosity is linked to lower levels of anxiety and greater psychological well-being [*].

Curiosity also plays an essential role in a child’s professional future. When curious about other people’s ideas and goals, they become more insightful about what others can offer. Curiosity also inspires creative problem-solving techniques, making children more likely to succeed professionally [*].

This social curiosity creates more inclusive environments, as children are less likely to engage in confirmation bias or stereotyping.

How to Develop Curiosity in Kids

Now that you know the importance of being curious, here are a few tips for developing curiosity in kids.

Encourage questions

It may be daunting to answer your child when they ask where babies come from, but encouraging questions is the best way to inspire them to keep learning. When you answer questions, keep them simple and concise. If you don’t have an answer, be honest and do research together! Doing so will inspire your child to be persistent with learning.

Spend time asking your child questions as well—prioritize those with no right or wrong answers. For instance, you might ask, “What do you think about sweet breakfast foods?” or “How do you feel about homeschooling?”

Provide hands-on experience

Discussion isn’t the only way children learn. In fact, children are often more engaged through tactile experiences. Provide them opportunities to build, create, and investigate through arts and crafts, backyard activities, or science experiments.

Follow your child’s interests

While you may dream of your child becoming a classical musician or successful athlete, prioritize encouraging natural interests. Children learn better through activities that capture their attention.

For example, if your child is interested in art, you can paint or take a pottery class together. You can volunteer at the local shelter if they're interested in animals.

Don’t run to your child’s rescue

If your child encounters a problem with homework, a favorite toy, or another activity, don’t rush to their immediate rescue. Allow them the independence to solve their issue to instill a sense of self-reliance.

If they make a mistake, don’t criticize them. Instead, encourage them to try again, allowing them to explore alternative solutions.

Try open-ended play

Provide toys that promote inquiry-based learning. Legos, building blocks, and DIY kits provide excellent opportunities to foster creativity and logical thinking. Let your child tinker around and figure things out instead of rushing to finish.

Let your kids choose

Whether preparing dinner or buying new sheets, involve your child in decision-making. Ask them what they’d like for dinner and assign them simple roles like washing vegetables or setting the table. Have them touch and test out sheets, asking them what they think feels best.

Children will appreciate the autonomy you give them and be more confident about voicing their opinions.

Read lots of books

Getting children interested in reading can be challenging, but they’ll be pleasantly surprised to find how words can unlock new and exciting universes. Read old favorites but occasionally introduce new books.

Take your child to the bookstore and browse choices according to genres and age-appropriateness. Ask them to describe their ideal characters and what journeys they want to discover.

Go on nature walks

Exploring nature is a great way to expand your child’s horizons. Go on local guided tours or family trips, observing the flora and fauna they see. Ask questions as you make observations, like “Why do you think birds live in nests?” Your child will feel encouraged to ponder their own explanations and hypotheses.

Most importantly, follow your child’s interests. If they seem drawn to specific plants or animals, note these down and learn more about them together.

Visit museums and zoos

Museums, science centers, zoos, and aquariums foster ideal spaces for children to learn new concepts and ideas. Some places may even host workshops and hands-on activities like petting zoos, animal feedings, interactive exhibits, and demonstrations.

Let kids be kids

You can’t police everything your child does. As a parent, it can be frightening to think about leaving your child alone but trust that they are more resilient than you might anticipate. If you find yourself saying, “Don’t play with that,” or “That’s not proper,” cut them some slack, especially at home.

At the same time, child-proofing your home by putting breakables and potentially hazardous objects away will give your children safer spaces to explore their surroundings.

The Bottom Line

Developing curiosity in kids doesn’t always require structure. When you find activities to pique your child’s interests, they’ll be naturally inclined to explore and wonder.

Fostering curiosity in kids is one of many steps in the character-building process. Use our character education posters to learn more about what it means to be well-rounded.

Sources:

  1. Gruber MJ, Fandakova Y. “Curiosity in childhood and adolescence — what can we learn from the brain.” Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 2021.
  2. Nur Hani Z, Newman MG. “Corrigendum: Curiosity does help to protect against anxiety and depression symptoms but not conversely.” Journal of Affective Disorders, 2023.
  3. Hardy JH, Ness AM, Mecca J. “Outside the box: Epistemic curiosity as a predictor of creative problem solving and creative performance.” Personality and Individual Differences. 2017.