Children are especially curious about the unusual or extreme, such as information shared in the April 14th Wonder 559 question: How Long Can Your Fingernails Grow?
Even the most resistant reader is enthralled with the pictures, captions and information surrounding the oddities revealed in the Guinness Book of World Records. How do you tap into (and even share) that curiosity? How do you use it as a springboard for meaningful learning?
I used to go for walks with an older gentleman, whom my parents cared for, and then he stopped taking me when I was around five and started taking my younger sister. Years later, I asked why, because I really missed those walks and talks. Seems I asked too many questions.
Young children are curious and do ask a lot of "why" questions. We can see the world through their eyes and join them in their own natural curiosity but reflecting their question and asking them for possible answers. This is one of my favorite games with my very curious granddaughter and I never want our walks to end.
You are so right, Jane. And responding with a question, such as "Good question! What do you think?" keeps children talking (strengthening language skills and creative thinking/problem solving). It also lets the adult off the hook for having to have all the answers. Love it!
What a beautiful story about walking and talking. Being patient when the questions keep flying and it seems like the little one will never end the inquiry is a big key to developing the language skills along with the critical thinking skills. We all know that the first seven years are the critical years and try to develop the basics while fostering the curiosity. The adage of "Out of the mouths of babes....." still holds true. Seeing the world through a child's eyes can be very enlightening for adults if they will just give it a try.
I have a 5-year old son and a 3-year old daughter AND I work full-time in a fairly high-pressure job with tons of deadlines, too much work and never enough time. I've found it really CRITICAL to shut down my mental "work-mode" as soon as the kids are home from daycare and STOP thinking over the "to do's" OR getting in a frenzy about all the typical stuff that has to get done in a day at home (which is STILL work). That's way easier said than done. I find that I have to "fake it 'til I make it" and it doesn't usually take that long.
What I mean is, I engage with my kids (not always successfully) even when I'm incredibly wrapped up in all the work/home stuff and stressed-to-the-max. I find that if I include them in whatever needs to be done and ask a few questions (sometimes just one will work, other times I have to work to draw them out and hit on something they're excited to talk about) it's not too long before I'm enchanted with the things they're saying and the affection and excitement they pour out on me. I try really hard to listen and participate in these "talks" in a manner that shows them that I'm really interested in what they have to say.
Some of the "tasks" I use to involve them in the chores that have to be done:
- I let them take turns vacuuming, which they love
- I give them each a damp cloth so they can go around wiping up walls, doors, shelves, furniture, whatever while I'm cleaning
- I let them pour ingredients into bowls/baking dish and stir things for me to "help me make dinner" (this REALLY helps in getting picky eaters to try new things too because they helped to make it ;-)
- I stop chores and snuggle with them or let my son "show" me every titillating aspect of his video game prowess or go along with my daughter when she declares that, "I'm the mommy & your the sweetie"
I find the talks and listening and trying to answer their questions and just showing them that what they say is worth really paying attention to seems to really have an impact on them - and the incredibly sweet moments I get with them are priceless. Bed-time is especially good for some one-on-one talks and cuddles.
Sorry for rambling on so much - it's good to remind myself of these things because it's so easy to stop doing them and get caught up in junk that doesn't really matter.
You really made me stop and think about doing some of those very things with my children (now in their 30s!). I remember taking "rainbow walks" with my daughter, splashing in puddles in search of rainbows after a heavy rain. And your wonderful reminder about the importance of listening.......we had some of our best talks in the car on the way to diving class. Maybe she felt that I was really focused on listening to her (which I was) but she sure did divulge a lot and it was an opportunity to be honest. "I don't know" was such a great and honest response that got her thinking about how we might find out together. She would think of many possible solutions/answers, and we could later try to find out if there was just one correct answer. She has always been a great problem solver! My sons were also inquisitive and their knowledge about specific topics would often exceed my own and leave me stunned. It sure was nice to have them explain things to me rather than the other way around. And you're right--they love demonstrating their prowess.
I used to teach teachers in college classes, and remember one particular student that was amazing at modeling her own sense of wonder. She would bring something in that was simple but maybe beautiful or unusual, and just share looking at it and think together of how/why it was that way, how cool it was, etc. They caught her curiosity and brought in their own mysterious items. They were also extremely observant when they went on walks or field trips. Wonder may not be able to be taught, but it sure was caught!
As a busy parent, it sure is neat to see how you turn those things that have to be done (which can be drudgery) into shared experiences. I love how you appreciate those special moments. Believe me---it passes far too quickly!
This is such a relaxing discussion, I had to take a moment and reply again. I wish more members would reflect and share their stories of reaching out to their young children in such positive ways as you and Charlie write about.
Though those early years with my two sons passed far too quickly for me, I am thoroughly enjoying repeating our early activities with my grandchildren.
And you know, my two boys who grew up so quickly and now have families of their own, have become my best friends.
One way I have found to spur the curiosity of young people is to build on their natural interest in national/international events receiving coverage in the media.
One example is the upcoming Olympic Games and the corresponding Olympic medals with their lettering as deciphered in this EDSITEment lesson plan:
Most students can probably recall seeing at least one Olympic medal ceremony. The sight of a triumphant Olympic athlete stooping to receive the gold medal as his or her country's anthem plays is one of the more moving images of each Olympiad. However, students have probably never had a chance to inspect an Olympic medal up-close. If students were to examine the medals awarded at the Athens 2004 games, they would find on both sides of the medal a series of strange markings—some looking remarkably like English letters and others appearing as incomprehensible lines and squiggles.
The string of symbols on both sides of the medal are, of course, Greek letters. The Olympic Movement website had this description of the medal design for the 2004 Athens Olympics: "the main feature of the medals is the Greek character shown on both sides… This is of particular importance, as from now on all Olympic medals will reflect the Greek character of the Games as regards both their origin and their revival." Students can view a graphic of the medal in full detail on the Olympic Movement's Athens 2004 page available through the EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library.
Students are bound to be curious to know what all that Greek writing means. This lesson plan uses an EDSITEment-created Greek alphabet animation to help students "decode" the inscription on the Olympic medal. Because the Olympic medal is both a familiar and mysterious object for students, it presents an ideal prompt to build basic literacy in the Greek alphabet. Thus, this lesson uses the Athens 2004 medal inscription as an elementary "text" to help students practice reading Greek and to help reinforce the link between ancient Greek culture and the Olympic games.
Perfect companion ideas for end of the school year activities. These resources can be used cross-curriculum and in multiple grade levels, culminating with a School Olympics and fun, competitive events on the last day of school.
You must allow students to collect multiple colored ribbons and perhaps celebrate the upcoming Summer Olympics in London. :-) We held a School Olympics in a Middle School where I taught and it was a tremendous success. Students made class flags and held opening and closing ceremonies.
It took me years to learn to do that in the classroom, but I found that sometimes the very best response is a, "Hmmmmm....good question. What do you think?" Sounds like you do a great job encouraging your child to problem solve and become a divergent thinker. Love it!!