Intellectual Curiosity- What Is It And How Do I Implement It?
One question I often get asked by parents who are considering highly competitive colleges for their children, in the US is, “What can my child do to get an edge over other applicants?” The answer is, well it depends. Strong academics and test scores are the foundation, but there are many other factors which help students distinguish themselves, whether it is extracurricular activities, community involvement, leadership initiatives or in-depth research about a particular college, among others. From my experience, I have seen that almost all of the students who received acceptances from leading universities displayed something in common – intellectual curiosity; a willingness to ask questions, explore the world, think about problems and find solutions with enthusiasm and determination.
Children LOVE to ask questions. In fact, in her TedX talk, “The power of ummmm,” Kath Murdoch describes how children innocently often end up asking the same questions that we have been grappling with for years, like “Why do we live?” and “Where do we go after we die?”
Children are born curious, and it’s our job as parents and educators to nurture that curiosity, and encourage students to explore and innovate. Innovation and creative problem solving are the attributes that world-changers are best known for and what colleges look for in application essays. It is better to start developing intellectual curiosity when your children are young, however it is never too late to inspire them to learn, even if your children are in high school. Teach your children to question and explore, engage with them, allow them to speculate and offer theories and instill in them the desire and determination to find answers. As a parent of two precocious, young kids I thought I would share some of my tips for developing intellectually curious minds.
Answer their questions. Just last week my daughter asked me: “Why do stars twinkle?” Instead of patting her head and ignoring her question, I helped her find the answer. My fourth Google search directed me to an interesting website, which asks children to send in their questions no matter how silly they are. (https://theconversation.com/curious-kids-why-do-stars-twinkle-81188) My six year and five year old found the pictures intriguing and together we learned something new.
Share interesting information with your children. I make it a point to cut out short pieces from newspapers and share it with my children. I choose articles that are text light and have an image; stories about unique things happening around the world, people celebrating festivals and animals are some of their favourites.
Encourage your children to read. Reading is a critical skill that is important not only in the education journey of your child but in every aspect of their life. Read with your children or get them to read to you and then follow up with questions or encourage a discussion – this is a great way to get them to develop a willingness to want to know more. And who knows, maybe you will learn something new as well! Read anything – newspaper articles, books, magazines, website or blogs. National Geographic Kids, Young World and How Stuff Works are great websites that are directed towards a younger audience. If you want to find out more on how to make reading a habit, read my article here.
Help them be more observant. Often times, showing your children something gets them more excited than simply telling them. When my children had questions about birds and nests, rather than answering their questions at home, we went out to find a nest. This helped them to touch and feel the materials used to construct the nest along with its shape and size. When you show them, they can see for themselves how nature works and often get more intrigued with the topic.
Introduce different concepts and ideas. My children love it when I tell them “made up stories”. I use this opportunity to further explore or introduce challenging words and concepts. In one of the stories, Jack and Jill’s parents were botanists and the government had invited them to investigate an incident of biological warfare. (Yes, I have a crazy imagination!) They were intrigued by my story and understood that sometimes you have to do some things for the better good and even remembered what a botanist was the next day when I asked them!
The main thing I have noticed with my children is that ultimately they are like sponges, and they see, read and absorb and learn by example.
I would love to hear about your experiences – what according to you is intellectual curiosity? What has worked for you? Your tips rewarding curiosity?