Talk And Teach

Talk And Teach

Talk and teach: Pique curiosity through conversation

By Kavita Mehta and Namita Mehta

As parents, we want the best for our children. We read to them, teach them manners, put them in schools that align with our ideologies and expose them to as much as possible, be it sports, music, debate or more. We also ensure they are physically healthy through nutritious meals, appropriate sleep times and regular doctor and dentist visits. But what are we doing to nourish their curiosity, sense of wonder and their understanding of how the world and societies function? This doesn’t have to involve some fancy class or complicated structure. Instead, we can engage them with these topics in fun, stimulating conversations.

If we think about it, basic conversations are a gateway to teaching children about the world we live in, in an organic way. Talking about your own life experiences is an easy way to introduce them to concepts in a way that is relatable. Conversations about how a factory works, why owls hoot, or even why stars twinkle are the basis of intellectual curiosity – the willingness to ask questions, explore the world, think about problems and find solutions with enthusiasm and determination. We all want our children to be intellectually curious, so let’s ignite this curiosity with discussions.

Here are some fun conversations that parents have had with their children; all providing excellent learnings in a fun, organic manner.

Trips to the waffle shop – Namita Mehta

“Hitting the local Belgian Waffle Co. is our family’s favourite outing. My six-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son both jump with excitement every time we pass a Belgian Waffle Co. outlet, Mumbai’s newly ubiquitous dessert chain. As we drive by, I take this opportunity to explain to them what ‘chain restaurants’ are and together, we come up with a list of familiar brands that are ‘chains’ – Starbucks, Zara, Dominoes and Sahakari Bhandar were among the few that made our list. We discussed the idea of chains and how that is one way to operate a company – in other words, a business model. My daughter even asked me if my company, The Red Pen, is part of a chain.

On another visit to Belgian Waffle Co., I asked my son how he thought the money handed over to buy the waffles would be used. He came up with the obvious answers like ingredients and waffle makers. When I probed him further, we discussed how rent, the salary of the waffle man, electricity bills and decorations of the restaurant are also costs that need to be paid. As he savoured his nutella waffle, I was able to introduce the concept of cost and profit in a fun and relevant way.”

Flying Cathay Pacific – Kavita Mehta

“During our family’s last trip to the US, we flew Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s national carrier. As soon as we had settled into our seats, I asked my twelve-year-old twins what language they thought the announcements would be made in. They both said Chinese, English and Hindi. We discussed how airlines typically make their on-board announcements based on that flight’s country of origin, country of destination and as well as the official language of the carrier’s home base. Most airlines also announce in English regardless of origin or destination, as it is often considered ‘universal.” We then went on to play a game in which I gave them scenarios like Moscow to Brazil on Air France and they had to name all relevant languages….they correctly answered Russian, Portuguese, French and English!”

Putting kids to work – Tripti Singh

“As parents, my husband and I want to ensure that our boys, aged seven and nine, have life skills relevant to the 21st century. Keeping this in mind, we assign ‘departments’ to each one. They are Heads of Department for their respective areas and are expected to shape the family’s discussion about activities in that department.

My seven-year-old for example, was a stakeholder in a car buying decision that we made as a family. As our family’s ‘Head of Cars’, he helped out with the research, remembered facts about models (he hates to write, so he offered to memorize the facts instead, and we agreed), visited each showroom with his father and asked relevant questions to each salesperson. He was also responsible for scheduling the visits. During the three-month period that it took us to finally zero in on a car, he was involved in every conversation, including the cost-benefit analysis. When the final decision was made, he was party to the advantages being considered and was also allowed to pick the colour and discuss the merits and drawbacks of each colour being considered. This experience has sparked his curiosity and he now seeks more information about cars in general.

A major part of our most recent vacation was planned entirely by my nine-year-old, who is our ‘Head of Culinary Experiences’. Since he loves to try new flavours, he was in charge of researching our eating options around the tourist spots we planned to visit and also some ‘must-visit’ eateries that would expose us to local flavours. This was a great way for him to learn what research entails and also how to present insights. Some of his finds were a bit too local for our tastes, but we indulged in them anyway so that he could evaluate the viability of the find himself and understand how online information can differ from reality. He felt proud, important and appreciated; after the trip, he said, ‘I worked so hard and I’m happy I added value to our family’s experience.’

Children are born curious, so all you need to do is encourage it by asking questions to stimulate their thought process.

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