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Cultivating Curiosity

Having recently returned from the National Art Education Association Conference in Seattle, I have creativity and curiosity on my mind. The week-long conference left me with inspiration and new ideas in the world of art education, with everything from new thinking on design education to drawing practices and new research in neuroscience. One presenter, a professor from Columbia College in Chicago, said quite simply in her presentation:“looking makes children see better, and a desire to look comes from curiosity.”

I like the simplicity of the statement, but how to cultivate curiosity in others? The good news is it can be learned. The even better news is that in my experience working with families, the best way to get a child curious and excited about the world around them is to be curious and excited yourself. The bonus is that modeling an enthusiasm for learning and exploring is a great way to get back in touch with your own capacity for curiosity. Here are some other tips for cultivating curiosity in your child:

1. Let them dabble – one aspect of a curious mind is a love of new knowledge and experiences. A jack of all trades is a master of curiosity!

2. Support deep interests – has their love of giant-hairy-spiders-phase been going on for quite some time?  A deep curiosity in one topic can ultimately open up many related worlds. Just take notice if the deep interest becomes all consuming and interferes with socialization, perhaps then encouraging your child to socialize with other arachnid-loving peers.

3. Don’t force it – if your child drops one interest for another, let that be ok (even if that saxophone was a bit pricey!) Curiosity can be cultivated, but not forced.

4. Embrace anxiety – Acknowledge that trying new things can be scary. Share a time with your child that you were unsure about trying something new and how you worked through it.  Also allow for failure. Perseverance is a key ingredient in curiosity. We try and fail and try again.

5. Everyday curiosity – Encourage curiosity in everyday life, like at the dinner table for instance. Perhaps you are eating something with an interesting anecdote – for example, did you know that that early Portuguese traders originally brought curry spices to India? Fascinating!

6. Be flexible – Curiosity doesn’t have a lot of rules. When I am teaching art to children, I never say “this is the right way” because it’s not, it’s just one way.

7. Children’s studies – Get curious about your children’s studies and let them teach you. Instead of asking “What did you learn today?” which is often met with an eye-roll and I dunno, ask more specific questions regarding subjects they are learning.

8. Let them guide you -  I love it when families come to the museum and children show their parents around, bringing them to the painting they saw on a school trip earlier. We can guide children to possibilities and also let them play an important role.

Enjoy being the facilitator of this great big interesting world.

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit. — e.e. cummings


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1 comment
  • Hi, this is actually a great post. You receive my vote for Cultivating Curiosity : KiDOinfo: parents and kids, providence and beyond and also I’ll bookmark this blog now.