Curiosity as the Key to Lifelong Learning

Helping Your Children to Expand Their Wonder

By Dr Angel Adams and Dr Patricia Papciak

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

-Albert Einstein-

Curious children

Curiosity begins at an early age. Children are naturally inquisitive about everything they see. Adults often find humour in the curiosity of children because once we learn certain answers to childlike questions; we develop confidence in our knowledge. But what really creates the path to further and further learning is an adherence to a continuation of that original childlike curiosity. It is those who continue to ask questions, to reach continually into unknown territories, who are responsible for the intellectual and psychological development of the world as we know it.

How do we help our children never to lose their curiosity? How do we help them accept what they are told but also to question what they are told? Certainly, it is the people who are most curious, who answer one question and ask another who eventually become the experts in given fields. The variety of questions that might be posed on any subject is limited only by the imagination of individual questioners. And so, many directions might be explored on any given subject. It is up to us as adults to encourage wonder in our children, to encourage imagination and creativity as our children approach the obstacles of their young lives.

As we all know, there are many immensely complicated questions that children and adults eventually ask. Perhaps the best way to explore these questions is by reading a variety of different opinions on any given subject. It is delightful when children are curious. When they arrive at answers or further questions that are perhaps beyond our own knowledge, it is time for discovery!

Giving children definitive answers about major questions in the world is not necessarily the best way to approach the immense complications of our thinking. This might work well when children are young because answers from parents often help make children feel safe. But as children get older, it is important that they know ways to explore answers to their own questions.

Reading an assortment of books to children is a brilliant way of helping them see how differently the world might be approached. Even simple stories of animals present a variety of possibilities. Children might also be introduced to non fiction books at an early age. There is rarely a child not fascinated by the intricacy of insects, the incomprehension of the strange dinosaurs that once walked the earth or the fire engines and airplanes that are built to protect the world. In reading to children, and looking at pictures with children, we ignite their curiosity about the world we live in.

We might also encourage activities with children that show them the variety and the endless possibilities in any area. For example, pressing flowers and looking at the great variety nature has to offer is a great initiator when it comes to looking at the microscopic beauty of the countryside. Collecting stamps and discussing the historical or natural significance that is artistically presented in this colorful every-day way of life might open their eyes to many different kinds of things. These activities are easy. They come across our paths daily, and if we teach children to notice them, we also teach them to notice other things in their lives without taking them for granted.

Collection of stamps.Photo by Patricia Papciak

To be curious, to be committed to a lifelong learning process, is also an important life style. The more we are curious about the world, the more possibility there is of pursuing fascinating careers and hobbies that lead us to interact with other curious and imaginative people. In this way we are continuously challenged intellectually and emotionally. We always have books we want to read, places we want to go, and sights we want to see. When we embrace the mystifying nature of the world, we are never bored; there is always another step where something is revealed to appeal to our life long learning process.

When we read to children, when we take them to places of wonder, when we encourage them to express themselves imaginatively, we help them to develop curiosity, we help them want to learn the answers to their questions about life. This often changes the mood of a child who might be bored, sulking or even depressed. They will be too excited to read the next book that might shed light on their most recent quest.

Maya Frost, author and coach, considers mindfulness and curiosity to be best friends. “If Mindfulness is the quiet one noticing new things, Curiosity is the more energetic one willing to explore the details and play with every new discovery”.

Harvard researches found that by developing greater awareness of the world around you, the mindful/curious duo can help reduce prejudice, enhance deeper engagement, and higher self-esteem. Being mindful of others who are different, leads to a heightened awareness of our behaviour and attitudes. This opens the door to curiosity, which can guide us to learn more about others and to find significant ways in which we are similar as well as accepting the ways that are different. .

Being mindful and curious about others who are different can lead to a heightened awareness of our behaviour and attitudes, and can even reduce prejudice. When we meet others with obvious physical differences–whether that’s race, height, weight, eye color, hair style, or fashion sense–we tend to first notice what is different. Mindfulness and curiosity can guide us to learn more about others and to find meaningful ways in which we are similar. This is also great role-modelling for our children.

Tips for helping ourselves and our children develop curiosity:

  1. Notice everything around you and point it out to your children. If you have questions about the clouds, a bird you see, or the way a drop of water hangs on a leaf for a while before it falls, look it up and see if you can answer your questions.
  2. Try something new each day. Try a new kind of food or a new path to work. Close your eyes and put your finger on a map. Look up that place and see what you can learn about it.
  3. Don’t forget the question words. What? Who? Why? Where? When? That’s where journalists begin their stories. Learn and share about people in history with you r child and how they overcame trials and tribulations.
  4. Talk to someone new whenever you can. Everyone has a story, and you can always learn something from someone else.
  5. Try to understand your feelings and the feelings of others as well as the world around you. Talk to your family about how you feel about something, and ask them how they feel.
  6. Investigate anything that grabs your attention. Train yourself to go to the library or the computer and read one or two different ideas on whatever you are interested in and thinking about.
  7. Don’t allow yourself to say, “I’m bored.” When you feel restless, recognize that this is a special moment. You have time to read, time to go somewhere, and time to make something. Think of “boredom” as the pleasure of a potential adventure either in your mind or out in the world. For children, encourage them to make a collage of all the things that they like to do and are curious about. It will be a reminder of all the many activities they can choose from.

The world is such an amazing place. It’s difficult to encompass at any one time the magnitude of life. There is the far-reaching infinity into outer space, known and unknown, where we start as children, and continue to search for answers to the origins of existence, where we continue to search for answers to the origins of existence. There is at the same time, the infinite internal reflection, also still greatly unknown, where we attempt to understand the nature of human thinking and human emotion. We have a great desire to know. . . to understand our lives, to learn information that helps us realise the beauty, the mystery and the potential of human existence.

House in the countrysidePhoto by Patricia Papciak

Life is a daily adventure, and it is up to us individually to make every effort to wake up and make our daily lives as rewarding as possible intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. With, mindfulness and curiosity combined, we have the best ingredients to evolve into more compassionate, joyful, and lovingly kind individuals, firstly for the children in our lives and ultimately to make a difference in the world!

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