The benefits of encouraging enquiring minds
Why is the sky blue? Who made the galaxy? Why do I have to eat my broccoli? Most parents and educators of small children will recognise these or similar questions.
While it can sometimes be tricky to keep up with the volume of questions children ask, encouraging children to ask them is one of the best things you can do to create imaginative, effective and lifelong learners.
Goodstart general manager pedagogy and practice Sue Robb said curiosity in young children was essential because it helped them understand the world around them and supported their learning.
“If you encourage children to be curious they will become more effective learners,” she said.
“Fostering curiosity and an enquiring mind allows children to ask questions and extend their learning so it is absolutely vital.
“If you’re an adult and you look out the window and see an odd vehicle you want to find out more about it, like why is it there? What is it doing? Asking these questions means you learn more about the world around you.”
Similarly with children, asking questions is how they find out and learn about the world around them.
“This is why educators in particular should think about the way they set up environments by having things of interest to the children and then scaffolding their thinking by engaging with them,” she said.
“For example, the educator might say, ‘hmm, I wonder why it is very bright today, what’s different that makes today brighter than yesterday?,’ and that is a way to talk about and help them learn about the sun and light and scaffold their learning.”
Parents can help children explore new ways of thinking and apply it to the world around them by providing them with lots of new experiences and things to explore.
“Encourage your children to ask questions and then try and answer them,” she said.
“Also having lot of things for them to investigate, they don’t need to be expensive or hard to get, things like pots and pans can be effective.
“And then getting out and about with your children by exploring gardens or parks, or outings to the museum and gallery - then encourage them to ask questions about their surroundings.
“By doing this you’re enabling your children to explore their surroundings, learn about the world around them and then apply their thinking to other situations.”
The idea that curiosity helps children learn is at the heart of a University of Michigan study, published in scientific journal Pediatric Research in 2018.
The study found that the more curious the child, the more likely he or she may be to perform better in school, regardless of economic background.
After observing and interviewing more than 6000 children researchers discovered that elevated curiosity was linked to higher numeracy and literacy skills among kindergarten aged children.