I read a fascinating article the other day by a journalist called Bronwyn McNulty. Never heard of her? Me neither, but that’s by the by. It was all about how engaging your child’s curiosity is much better than simply problem solving for them.
Children are naturally curious creatures and by nurturing this, we are igniting their brain development and learning ability.
It’s a pretty cool gift, no?
We all know that helicopter parenting (hovering, dudes, hovering) is akin to wrapping them up in cotton wool, but it’s also not affording them the opportunity to negotiate the world and find their own way. Some of the best lessons in survival our children will ever learn is by exploring their world and making judgment calls for themselves….and yes, occasionally messing it up and getting the odd scrape and bruise.
Every time children explore and discover something on their own, their brain gives them a hit of the chemical dopamine. Dopamine often gets a bad rap because it causes addiction, but addictions can be used for good as well as evil. There have been some dopamine lovers in my family, so I’m feeling pretty confident that my progeny will be all over this like a booze hound at Happy Hour.
In the case of our darlings’ discovery, the little junkies are growing an addiction to learning.
Allowing little brains to guess how something works and figure it out on their own gives them a rush of excitement because they worked it out for themselves (a bit like me when I manage to out wit my inner tech-spazz).
Early on, this shows itself as imaginative play. For those not au fait with ‘play terminology’ that’s when your kid is in the bath and offers you a cup of water and suggests it’s tea and you should drink it. This behaviour should absolutely be encouraged, however, I would not drink the bath water because I reckon you can fairly safely say your kid swazzed in it. The bath always makes me want to pee. That’s why showers are superior, because you can.
But I digress…..
Today, D Man was playing with his play dough (home made, of course – show offy, bum licker). He made a little circular shape, brought it to me and said ‘Cookie’.
I took that cookie and I expanded on the theme, suggesting perhaps that we needed to cook it first. We pulled out the baking trays and put it in the oven (not turned on, just in case you think I was really letting him learn survival skills) and played with the oven mitts, and then progressed to the muffin tins, making an array of inedible unbaked goods.
This is not because Jamie Oliver is stinking rich and I’m grooming D Man to rock a toque hat and checked pants, but because the more I engage him in this imaginary world, the more excited and involved he became. He showed interest in something and I engaged his curiosity……I think that’s kind of the gist of what they’re talking about.
When the barrage of ‘whys?’ hit, instead of pulling your hair out and poking knitting needles in your ears, this article suggests that you answer questions with questions. Anyone that has ever been to a shrink will know this is fairly infuriating, maybe it’s a tactic to make your toddler go away?
“Why is the sky blue?”
“Why do you think it’s blue?”
By asking them questions in return, you’re making them think for themselves, even if their answer is wildly wrong, their brain is still computing.
If you run out of answers, make a game out of going in search of the answers together. There are trips to the library and endless google possibilities. Turn it into a project that you can engage in with your child. Hell, you may even learn something yourself.
We all know that reading to our sproglets is invaluable, but not just in the obvious ways. Being read to is one of the things that releases dopamine, so we can encourage a love of words and reading by getting them addicted to it early on. It’s brilliant, and it’s so easy. You don’t have to read them War and Peace. Simple Spot and The Lorax can create a lifetime habit.
Let’s grow curious people, people!
Let’s create children smarter than ourselves, because the world is in their hands and by the time we’re done with it, they’ll have some serious work to do.