How to develop a child’s inquiring mind

Why are trees green?  Why must I brush my teeth?  Why does the dog have hair? 

While it can sometimes test our patience to keep up with the never-ending questions that children ask, promoting the habit of asking questions is one of the best things you can do to develop imaginative and self-motivated lifelong learners. It is important for parents to understand that it is totally normal for kids to ask these types of questions and it is important that parents encourage healthy curiosity and nurture their child’s inquiring mind.  

Asking ‘why’ is a sign of intelligence, curiosity and a desire to understand the world around them, which can seem huge and overwhelming for a young child. Christopher Oosthuizen, a CambriLearn homeschooling student and MENSA member says that he likes to be taught “how to think and not what to think.” Nurturing the foundations of understanding works towards building security and confidence and is a fundamental step in early childhood development

In this article, we will look at ways to manage, cope and nurture kids who ask a ton of questions in order to encourage healthy curiosity and develop their inquiring minds. 

Foster your child’s curiosity

A child with a curious mind will always try to delve deeper into the knowledge they have gained.  They will want to learn more and will use their “why” questions to conduct their own research. This desire to know more is crucial to effective learning and helps instil a child’s love of learning which in turn promotes self-motivation and confidence. 

A child with an inquiring mind will explore new ways of thinking and apply them to the world around them – thus providing them with hands-on learning experiences and knowledge that they have discovered on their own.  

Nurturing inquiring minds

The best way to help develop a young child’s inquiring mind is by encouraging questions and creating an atmosphere of inquiry. Guide your child along the question-asking process in a way that will challenge them to find the answers on their own. 

Here are a few examples of how you can help develop your child’s inquiring mind; 

  • Pose leading questions to whet their appetite for more knowledge. After a lesson on electricity, challenge them with a question that will lead to further enquiry, “I wonder if magnets are related to electricity?”. After a lesson on food chains, ask, “I wonder what bats eat?” 
  • Make learning and discovery a part of family life. If your child answers a question that stumps you, commit to helping them find the answer by researching together. This involvement in the answer-seeking process will help establish their research skills and enhance the development of their sense of curiosity.  
  • When out and about with your child ask “I wonder” questions.  At a picnic in the park ask, “I wonder why leaves are green?”. At the beach ask, “I wonder why there is a high and a low tide?”. 
  • Watch educational television programmes on nature, science, history or geography with your child and then spend time discussing what you have learnt. This will encourage your child’s interest in the world around them and provide them with new experiences to explore and discover. 
  • Read stories to them about people who have achieved great things. If your child is interested in sport, read autobiographies on successful sports personalities and encourage your child to find out more about the motivation behind their success; or the town, city or country in which they live. 
  • Encourage experimentation and hands-on learning. Inquiry-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities encourage children to ask questions and pursue experimentation and research to explore their interests.  An open approach to STEM education does not only teach facts but also stimulates children’s inquisitive minds. 
  • Encourage learning in your everyday life. In your daily life, you will find different opportunities to help your child discover new knowledge through everyday activities that could result in a STEM activity. For example, the simple task of blowing up a balloon can be turned into a STEM activity. Try to find new opportunities to learn in your daily life - use your child’s questions to provide a starting point for investigation. 
  • Encourage your child to keep a journal of their research and what they have discovered. This need not be curriculum based, but rather a record of what has interested them enough to research further. We all have different interests, and there is proof that we are only predisposed to learn new things when we are interested in them. As a parent, you may, through their journal, observe what your child likes and dislikes, so focus on encouraging their curiosity in those areas of knowledge.

So the next time your child asks “Where do beans come from?” or “Why is the sky Blue?”. Answer with, “Great question, let’s find out.” As Albert Einstein stated, “The important thing is never to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

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