In September, we are focusing on curiosity during Tasty Tuesdays. Children are, by nature, very curious about the world. Even if your child’s temperament might be rather quiet and cautious, it does not mean that she is not curious about her surroundings. It probably means that she would rather observe the world, and observation is definitely a form of curiosity! Regardless of how children might express their curiosity, we want them to feel confident, comfortable, and safe to explore the world:
1. Curiosity and physical development
Curiosity is essential to the development of very young children. Babies, for example, reach for things because they are curious about what those items are, which encourages the development of their fine/gross motor skills. You can help to foster this development of motor skills by setting toys on the table when your child is just learning how to stand up. He will be motivated to stand up to try and reach for these engaging objects.
Hiding objects in a box is also another fun way to encourage children’s skill development. Find some boxes and containers with different kinds of lids and put some toys in them. It will be a fun challenge for your child to get the object out of these containers, and this activity will not only help her to develop her fine motor skills, but she will also hone her problem solving skills at the same time. For very young children, you can use wrapping paper instead of a box. Ripping off the paper will be a good exercise for their little hands and fingers!
2. Curiosity and emotional development
Positive social emotional skills also stem from curiosity. As I wrote in the post about friendship (https://bostonchildrensmuseum.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/friendship-in-young-children/), touching other people’s faces is the first step of recognizing others. Curiosity about others makes babies aware of their sense of self vs. others, which will lead into the development of empathy.
When children are figuring out social situations, you might see some difficult behaviors, such as grabbing toys from another child. Don’t be alarmed and label your child (or other people’s child) as aggressive or misbehaving. When these incidents occur, you can ask your child to see if his friend is feeling okay. You can also tell him that grabbing toys makes other friends very sad, and that he can see the feelings by their tears or facial expressions. This encourages children to observe and learn about emotions and how to positively interact with other people.
3. Curiosity and Safety
In order to maximize the opportunity for your child to be curious, safety must be considered carefully. There are a number of websites and resources that provide you with a checklist of how to keep your home safe for your child. As you consider how to make your home as safe as possible for your child to freely explore, try sitting or lying down so that you are at your child’s eye level. What does the world look like to you? What is at reachable height, and what looks interesting? You might discover a new viewpoint from the lower angle. Always remember that small children do not have a sense of balance and body control in the same way that adults do. Even a toilet can be very dangerous if a child falls into it by accident when adults are not around. Getting cuts and scrapes is a healthy part of children’s developmental process to learn about their own bodies and safety, so don’t over-limit the activities or environments that your child can play in. However, you can prevent a lot of accidents that your curious child can get into by just by being aware and mindful about what can lead to serious safety issues.
Your child will naturally explore and investigate her curiosity, but with a few prompts from you, and the right environment, you can help her take her curiosity even farther.