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Intellectual Curiosity

May 30th, 2017

{photo by Luca Campioni}

Growing up, my little sister used to say, "It's summer, I don't have to learn anything!" While I can certainly appreciate that a child would feel that way on some level, here's another perspective I recently read, from David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers:

“…a friend told Orville that he and his brother would always stand as an example of how far Americans with no special advantages could advance in the world. “But it isn’t true,” Orville responded emphatically, “to say we had no special advantages… the greatest thing in our favor was growing up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity.”

What a remarkable observation, and one we can all be inspired by! A child's natural curiosity can lead to a love of learning, rather than the desire to take a vacation from it. As we study the fascinating Wright brothers, we see in their lives, character, and accomplishments how important curiosity, exploration, and discovery are.

Though we hope to provide an environment in our homes where intellectual curiosity is nurtured year-round, summer time is a perfect season to let kids explore and discover by following their curiosity. Bring home fun books from the library filled with interesting and wonder-provoking pictures. Allow for plenty of outside time, building forts, taking apart machines, imaginative play, trying experiments, making art, or whatever creative outlet your kids are drawn to. The following are a few more suggestions to help us cultivate their sense of wonder and curiosity:

{photo source}

• Years ago we shared a great idea here on the blog: Put up an “I Wonder…?” Board. Our kids often ask questions: "Why do camels have humps?" "How do you make plastic?"  "Why are my eyes brown?" We long to honor and encourage our children's curiosity, but it can be difficult finding time to research and answer such questions.  In a book by Amanda Soule called The Rhythm of the Family, she suggests an "I Wonder Why" bulletin board where questions are posted to be researched and possibly (hopefully!) answered at a later date.  What a great way to let our children know their questions are welcome, while also helping us parents remember to make time to answer them. If you don't have space for a bulletin board, you can put questions in a jar, a pretty bowl, or hang them from a tree branch (bonus – home decor!) There are many ways to easily incorporate an "I Wonder Why" space into our homes.

• Check out a great blog post that goes along with this idea, from TinkerLab (this site has fantastic activity ideas, too!):

6 Tools for Building a Child’s Confidence

• Screen time is often an issue for most of us over the summer, and it’s nice to have a supply of educational games and sites to turn to. While you’re coming up with your own plan for how to manage summer screen time with your children, here are a few more educational websites to consider that feed curiosity, creativity, and discovery:

{photo by Hey Paul Studios via flickr / CC BY 2.0}

The Kid Should See This – Smart videos for curious minds of all ages

Brain GamesThe website that goes along with the TV show, and features “mini-games” you can watch and play online.

Jam: Online Courses for Kids – I just learned about this, and understand that you pay for kids to take classes through this site. Some of the courses look pretty cool, and this might be a fun way to use screen time for learning and discovery.

Activities from Discovery Kids 

Online Games for the Brain

• Visit places that encourage curiosity and discovery, like the new Moxi in Santa Barbara! Or any of our local kid-friendly spots, like the SLO Children’s Museum, the Central Coast Aquarium, the SLO Botanical Garden, the creek, the beach, hikes, etc… (leave your favorites in the comments below!)

• And finally, for your summer movie plans, here’s a list of Movies that Inspire Curiosity, from Common Sense Media.

Have a wonder-filled, curiosity-driven summer! It's worth putting up with a little bit of a mess to let our kids discover, invent, build, and create… you never know what they'll grow up to do if they are raised with "much encouragement to intellectual curiosity!"

If you have any further suggestions along these lines, please leave a comment and share: