Keeping and Developing Children’s Sense of Curiosity

Children have a big sense of curiosity to know everything in their surroundings. It is a natural desire which is actualized by exploring their surroundings using their five senses by seeing, listening, hearing, smelling and tasting.

This sense of curiosity is important to be fulfilled, because :

1. It is children’s basic need and is used in learning process.

The desire to know things in their surroundings makes children recognizing and understanding the environment where they live in. The understanding make them know how to act, interact with others and handle their world.

2. If the need isn’t fulfilled, then it will stay and affect their behavior. For instance, a 2 years old child is curious about things he/ she sees everyday. If it is held and kept inside him/ her, he/ she will actualizes it in later age when he/ she gets a chance. It will make him/ her acted as 2 years old, even tough he’s/ she’s already been 3 years old or more. The behavior which isn’t suitable with his/ her age will delay his/ her ability too. So, what he/ she must have been achieved in a certain age, will be achieved in later age.

So, it is very important for us to develop children’s sense of curiosity. Here are ways to do it :

1. Give children chance to explore their surroundings

It sounds easy, but there’s an important thing we should be aware of, which is children’s safety. When they explore their surroundings, they still don’t know the dangers might arise. Therefore, we must create a safety environment for them. Here are things we can do :

* Put things which might attract children’s attention in reachable places. So, they can explore them easily.

* Create a wide space for children. So, they can move freely. We can do it by putting  less furniture in rooms where they often do their activities.

* If possible, provide a playroom for children. So, we can design it to be safe and suitable with their needs.

* Install electricity plug in away from children’s reach.

* Keep dangerous things away from children, such as fragile and breakable things, sharp things, small things which might be swallowed easily by them, things create heat, etc.

* Lock rooms you think unsafe for them. So, they won’t enter them accidentally.

* Lock access door to go outside the house. So they won’t get out of the house accidentally and unsupervised.

Those points are how to make safety home environment for children. But their curiousness is not limited at home environment only, it also includes environment outside home. So, we have to think about the safety there as well. Basically, we can’t control the conditions outside the house completely, but there are things we can do, such as;  provide safety tools for them when they go outside, supervised them well, always be alert and ready to act when something comes up when they’re outside the house.

2. Explain things they observe and explore

It’s important to give them explanation of what they explore because it’s not only satisfied their curiousness but also made them learning and gaining knowledge. The explanations can be :

* Simple or complex facts. It depends on children’s age.

For instance, a child plays flowers in a vase. To a 2 years old, we can say,”It’s a flower!” Then we say, “It’s red!”

To a 3 years old, we can say, “It’s a rose. It’s red. Smell it! Smells good, isn’t it?”

To a 4 or 5 years old, we can give further explanation. We can tell the parts of the flower, the function of the parts, the benefit of flower for human or animal, etc.

* Steps to do something. For example, a child watches us when we prepare a cup of tea. We can tell him/ her what do we need to make a cup of tea and steps how to make it.

* Cause and effect explanation. For instance, a child throws a ball on to a mirror. We can tell him/ her the danger of doing it. The mirror might be shattered into pieces and the pieces might hurt him/ her. It’s better explaining the true facts as the effect of doing things instead making him/ her scared by telling untrue facts. For example, we tell him/ her that a monster will come out of the mirror and bite him/ her if he/ she throws the ball on to it. This kind of statement can cause :

– Children will be afraid of something not true. Later on, it will make them afraid to play/ explore the ball or mirror.

– Children will not learn about the consequences of their action. Yet, it’s very important for them to learn about the dangers might arise from everything they’ve done. So, they won’t repeat the actions might make them hurt.

– Children will have wrong perception which needs to be corrected in the future. Changing perception is more difficult than giving the right one in the first place.

3. Observe children’ activity and determine whether they are in dangerous situation or not.

It’s important for us knowing  it, because it relates to :

* What kind of explanations we’re going to give to children in certain situations.

* How to prohibit children to do something.

I’m stressing the prohibit word, because it’s important to be noticed, especially in the intensity of giving it to children. The intention of giving prohibitions to children is usually connected with their safety. As I’ve explained earlier in point number one, in order to make children get a chance to exploring, the environment must be safe for them. If it isn’t so, it is likely, we will often say,

” Don’t touch that!”

“Don’t climb it!”,

etc

Too many prohibitions might reduce children’s sense of curiosity. Yet, not giving any, might be dangerous for them too. Because without any experiences of not allowed to do something, children won’t learn how to act/ behave in a dangerous situation. That’s why, it’s very important to know what kind of situations children often have to deal with and how to handle them. Here are kind of situations might happen :

* If we think children explore in relatively safe situation, we might explain as in point number two above.

* If we think children explore or do something dangerous, but the danger might not happen soon, we can give direct order without prohibition. For instance, a child holds scissors, yet he/ she doesn’t know how to use it without  making himself/ herself hurt, we can say,

“Put down the scissors!”

After that, we can explain him/ her why he/ she must put it down. We can say,

“You must put it down, because you still don’t know how to use it!”

Then, at that moment (if you have time) or in another time (If you don’t have time), teach him/ her how to use the scissors correctly and safely (Don’t forget to give him/ her children’s scissors). That will satisfy his/ her curiousness of scissors and he/ she learns how to use it. So, next time he/ she plays it, he/ she will be safe.

* If it is an emergency situation where a child will be hurt if we don’t stop it right away, we can prohibit him/ her. But soon after that, we must explain why he/ she isn’t allowed to do it. For example as in point cause and effect explanation, a child throws a ball to a mirror. It might make the mirror shattered in pieces and the pieces might hurt him/ her. In this situation, we can stop him/ her by saying,

“Don’t throw it!” or

“Stop it!”

He/ she might be shocked at first or even crying, but no need to worry. At least, bad thing has been avoided. But soon after that, we have to give explanation. We can say, “You can’t throw ball to the mirror. It might be broken and the broken pieces might hurt you. It can make you bleed. You don’t want that, do you?” This kind of explanation usually will calm him/ her and he/ she will know and learn that we did it is for his/ her own sake.

So, by knowing the situations children have to deal with, we won’t  often prohibit them, only in emergency situation and will give proper explanation. That way, we won’t harm children’s sense of curiosity.

4. Learn about children’s curiousness and their behaviors  in every age stages.

It’s important to know their curiousness in every age stages, because it always changes as they develop. In that way, we can adjust our behaviors, determine ways and give correct stimulation which suitable with their needs. Here are children’s curiousness based on age stages :

2 years old

* 2 years old children like to observe and touch things near them

* Time they spend to observe thing is usually short because they are still easily distracted to other things.

* They want to move independently

Example situation when a 2 years old is being curious – He/ she watches his/ her mother makes a cup of tea in a colorful cup. It attracts him/ her. He/ she would want to touch the cup, observe it, and then drink from it. After he/ she satisfies, he/ she would put it and turn his/ her attention to the tea bag. He/ she would touch it and may taste it as well.

What we should do when we deal with a 2 years old are :

– Always alert and be ready when we’re next to him/ her. It’s better if we stay close with him/ her when he/ she explores and move fast if he/ she needs help (remember the situations I’ve explained above)

– Let him/ her touch things and give him/ her explanation about the things he/ she touches. Tell about the names and the characteristic of the things (Use noun and adjective to explain things to a 2 years old)

3 Years old

* A 3 years old doesn’t only want to touch and observe, but also wants to do something with it (want to know how a thing works and try it by himself/ herself)

* Time he/ she spends to observe and do things is longer than a 2 years old. It’s because he/ she has longer concentration span and he/ she is not easily distracted anymore.

* A 3 years old wants to do things independently. He/ she doesn’t mind if we stay close with him/ her and talk about things he/ she does. Yet, do not nag him/ her how to do something, because he/ she likes to do things with his/ her own way.

Example situation when a 3 years old is being curious – The situation is the same as 2 years old. But he/ she will not be satisfied by touching or tasting only. He/ she would want to make a cup of tea by himself/ herself.

What we should do when we deal with 3 years old are :

– Give he/ she a chance to observe what he/ she wants independently, but stay close with him/ her, so we can give explanation when he/ she needs it.

* Give example how to do thing properly. But then, give him/ her chance to do it independently. If he/ she makes mistakes, instead stopping, nagging or telling him/ her that he/ she is wrong, it’s better if we give him/ her example how to fix it. Example, when he/ she makes tea, he/ she spills some water on to the table. We should wipe the water (not completely. Spare some water, so the child can wipe it) and explain to him/ her that if he/ she spills the water, he/she should wipe it, so the table won’t be wet and slippery. Then ask him/ her to follow what we do. That way, he/ she won’t be afraid if he/ she makes mistakes. Yet, he/ she will learn that if he/ she makes mistakes, he/ she should be responsible and do things to make it all right again. This understanding won’t make him/ her stop being curious and learn new things, though he/ she might make mistakes in the process.

4 years old

4 years old children are just as 3 years old, but they start wondering more about things. For instance, when they make a cup of tea, they might wonder where does tea come from. Not all children would ask that, but if we tell about it, most of them will be interested and start asking a lot of things beyond their daily surroundings.

Ways we can do to deal with 4 years old children’s curiousness are :

– Read them books with various themes. Then discuss what you’ve read together. At this age, they love giving opinions and connect what they’ve already known with new knowledge.

– Show them movies or documentaries which can broaden their knowledge. Then discuss about them also.

– Let them to do daily activities concerning themselves, such as wearing their own clothes, tidying their own toys, eating by themselves, etc. Besides giving them a sense of independence, it’s  also encouraging them to keep curious about what they can do by themselves.

– Take them to many public places, such as zoo, museum, park, bank, post office, etc. Let them to do activities that can be done in each places. Example, let them post letter by themselves at the post office, ask them to do saving money activity at the bank, etc. These will give them many experiences which are different with what they do daily. In that way, their curiousness will keep being stimulated and they will gain new knowledge.

5 Years old

5 years old children have reduced their sense of curiosity, slightly. Well, it’s actually not reducing, but they feel that they’ve known things. So, to keep and develop their curiousness, they need new challenges.  But, it’s going to be a little difficult to make them accept new challenges. At this age, they’ve already thought that new challenges meant that they have to start from the bottom and apparently there are things they haven’t mastered. Yet,they don’t like the feeling of not able to do things. Therefore, to keep and develop their curiousness, we have to :

* Motivate them

Here are ways to keep them motivated :

– Show them things they still can’t do. No need difficult thing, just simple one, such as making origami. Attract them with simple origami, such as airplane. When they’re interested, they would ask how to make it. When they do, show and teach them how to make it. Then, show them more origami from the book or video. This usually makes them more interested and wanted to make more.

– Give them a role model. We can make ourselves as role model. Tell about our childhood story. Tell that when we were on their age, we still didn’t how to do many things as they are now. This usually makes them surprised, because they seem can’t imagine we once were a child and couldn’t do things. To make them understand, we can show our childhood picture which showed us learning something, for example, learning how to ride a bicycle. Tell our effort to be able to do it. This kind of story can encourage them to keep learning so they will able to do more things.

– Show videos or books which show someone’s efforts to reach their dreams, such as video about ballerina or racer. At this age, children usually have already had dream of what they want to be when they grow up (though it still keeps changing). But by showing videos or books which relate with their dream, they will learn if they want to reach their dream, they have to keep developing their abilities.

– Show them books or videos which can broaden their knowledge. That way, they know that there are many things they still don’t know about.

* Create new challenges from what they’ve already been able to do

For example, a 5 years old can write already. So we can :

– Ask him/ her to write letter to his/ her grandparents. Send it. Tell the grandparents that they will receive a letter. So, they can reply it and praise their grandson/  granddaughter. It will make the child happy and want to do it again.

– Ask him/ her to make scrap book. Paste their art and craft on the book. Ask him/ her to write anything he/ she likes on the book. Show it to relatives and friends.  Praise him/ her work.

– Ask him/ her to make birthday card for family or friends. Praise him/ her after he/ she makes it. He/ she will be proud and happy because he/ she has made something that make others happy. This can make him/ her want to do it again and being curious of what he/ she can do more.

Those are things we can do to keep and develop children’s sense of curiosity. Never get bored to keep doing it and be creative in giving stimulation, creating challenges and encouraging children.

In conclusion, sense of curiosity has built inside children since they were born. It is needed as a basic tool for them to learn about their world and how to handle it. Unfortunately, something so essential can be lost as time goes by, if the children are not understood well. Therefore, let’s recognize their curiousness. Help them to keep and develop it, so it will continue to exist and developed which in the end will make children develop better and be able to deal with their world.