Have you ever wondered why humans experience a longer childhood—and a slower road to independence—than do members of any other species?
Well, according to some experts, that slower track is exactly what allows kids to safely exercise their inborn curiosity—under the watchful eye of loving parents. That means right about now there’s plenty you can do to bring out the tiny explorer in your baby or toddler.
6 Ways to Trigger Your Baby’s Innate Curiosity
Although you will eventually find your own activities and games to boost your baby’s inborn curiosity, the following tips will help you and your child explore his world together.
1. Embrace a gentle approach. When you take your baby out and about in your own neighborhood or in a new environment, look for familiar and unfamiliar objects to ponder together.
Draw his attention to that fascinating new bird in the yard, the humming of a passing truck, or the inspiring beauty of an unusual flower. Be descriptive. Talk about the bird’s red wings, the truck’s noisy engine, or the flower’s yellow petals. Encourage him to point out interesting sights, sounds, and objects.
2. Start slow and then increase the challenge. Go ahead—read to your cutie. But as you do, go beyond the words the author supplied for you. Add new details and ask lots of questions as you enjoy looking at pictures together. This will help build your baby’s vocabulary and hike her powers of observation.
Try this with a treasured storybook: The first time you meet a dog in a particular story, point to the pup and say doggie. Later (actually, once your little one really understands what doggies look like), read the book again. This time ask your cutie to show you the brown pup sitting under the tree with a yellow kitty. Look for other opportunities to inspire curiosity. Teach your tot to make inferences and to observe actions as well as characters.
3. Introduce the concept of similarities and differences. Gather three plastic pails and several child-safe plastic toys in a variety of colors, say, red, green and yellow. Show your budding scientist how to put all the yellow toys in one bucket, green toys in a second bucket, and red ones in another. It’s okay if he doesn’t master the concept quickly—it’s still a great first step toward understanding how we group like objects together.
Two more options: Take a trip to the zoo. Point out that monkeys, birds and tigers are all animals. At a holiday gathering, explain that mommy, daddy, grandma, and grandpa all belong to his family. Encourage him to group toys, stuffed animals, shoes, hats, and other objects together.
4. Encourage creative thinking. Every once in a while, move a treasured book in your baby or toddler’s room to another shelf, or shift a favorite picture to a new spot on her dresser. Launch a mini-treasure hunt to find them. Say, Oh, I must have left that book somewhere. Can you help me find it? Applaud the search and the discovery. Try the same game at bath time. Hunt for shampoo, soap, a towel, and pjs together.
5. Be a learning partner. Take time to learn something new, and then share it—leading by example is a powerful motivator. At mealtime, explain where food comes from. Say, Bananas grow on trees. Cows make milk.
6. Don’t set deadlines. Let your child move at her own pace, but stay close by in order to help her. Encourage your little one to keep exploring. Tell her there are lots of questions for which there are no answers, but wondering is also important.