“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I really wanted a birdhouse. I’m not sure why exactly, but I impulsively and enthusiastically bought an unfinished birdhouse, and for whatever other reason, I then tucked it away in the back of closet. The mind works in odd ways.
In any case, about a week ago, my daughter became especially fascinated by some birds she saw on one of our walks. The observation led to further curiosities about birds in our books, birdhouses, naming birds in various toys, and spotting birds in the sky. Following one of our bird chats, I offered up that we could make our very own birdhouse. What I didn’t completely anticipate was the unbounded enthusiasm you often see when someone has earned an Olympic gold medal! And what I experienced in that short, beautiful moment is that my child was thrilled that I had not only listened to her, but that I also intended to help her pursue her interests and follow her curiosities.
Seeing the enthusiasm, I quickly pulled out the birdhouse, paint, and brushes. I’ve been unprepared for these impulsive moments in the past, and was relieved that the table was already covered in vinyl and the brushes and paints were ready to go. With toddlers, the whole mood can shift with the wind, so within minutes Project Birdhouse was underway. Any preconceived ideas I had for my darling birdhouse flew out the window and I opened myself up to my toddler’s ideas. Thankfully, she allowed me painting rights, and the two of us painted the whole house (under her direction!) in about 15 minutes.
I somehow convinced her toddler impatience that we had to let it dry before filling it with seeds, and the next day it was outside attracting birds.
Eight ways to support a child’s curiosities
- Listen closely and carefully to what your child is saying.
- Don’t interrupt the child with your own interpretations. Rather, reiterate what they are seeing and experiencing.
- Follow the child’s lead.
- Explore the child’s curiosity in multiple ways.
- Ask questions about the process of discovery.
- Encourage risk-taking and experimentation.
- Be flexible and ready to change your agenda to accommodate growing interests.
- When possible, have a stockpile of self-serve materials (i.e. books, craft supplies, toys, videos) ready that will support your child’s interests.
If your child is interested in…:
- Doctors, newborn babies, hospitals: Visit a large nearby hospital. Many hospitals are open to the public and allow visitors. You might be able to see newborn babies in the nursery, and it’s educational to look for scrubs, wheelchairs, gurneys, stethoscopes, etc. Also, consider purchasing an inexpensive doctor kit.
- Airplanes: Take a trip to the airport. If you’re in a car, look for a road that loops around the back of the airport that will allow you to watch planes taking off. And if you happen to have an aviation museum near your home like this one your child will love the hands-on experience of climbing into a cockpit and “flying” helicopters.
- Cooking: Cook together, and set up a mini-kitchen for your little chef. Have your child climb up on a step stool so that he or she can see all of the action. Depending on your child’s ability and age, he or she can pour flour into a batter, mix scrambled eggs, spread jam on toast, pull husks off of corn, etc. A mini-kitchen can be as simple as fashioning a stove out of a low cabinet that’s repainted and covered with little kitchen accessories. Here’s a smart and simple DIY kitchen idea.