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Curiosity can continue to motivate children throughout their lives.... Parents who respond to this curiosity with their own sense of joy can set a child up for a lifetime of success.

A few months ago, I briefly talked about curiosity when discussing the foundational skill of persistence. Curiosity is why children explore and discover the world around them. I say it is a foundational skill because curiosity leads to development in a few other key areas: 

  • Social Development 
  • Understanding of Self and Others (i.e., Diversity) 
  • Scientific Thinking 

Social Development  

Children’s curiosity about others leads them to interact with others, and the connection children experience when interacting with responsive adults or with other children, in turn, motivates them to seek more interactions.  

It’s helpful for parents to know that a child will be motivated to seek additional interactions after receiving both positive and negative reactions from others. For example, a preschooler who seems to randomly push others is probably enjoying that they are getting a reaction but doesn’t have the skills to elicit a more positive reaction. Scolding a child or telling them to stop may have the immediate effect of ending the pushing, but the child doesn’t learn any skills to replace that behavior.  

Instead of this approach, try thinking of something your child likes to do, and then talk to them about how to do that with others. For example, if your child likes to draw, suggest they make drawings for others: “I can’t let you push her, but I know you both like to draw. Do you want to ask her to draw with you?” If they like to build, suggest they ask others to join them in attaching their building to someone else’s. Or if they enjoy more physical play, you can facilitate a game of chase or tag with a few children. If a child is still developing social skills, you may need to join the game to help a child who may otherwise get over-enthusiastic in their tagging. Learning to play tag or engage in other rough-and-tumble play is a great way for children to practice impulse control with their physicality.  

Understanding of Self and Others (i.e., Diversity) 

A child’s curiosity causes them to wonder about people who are different from them. If they see someone with a different skin color or if they see someone using a wheelchair or other adaptive device that they don’t use, they will point it out. “Why is her skin so light?” “Why is he using a wheelchair?” These questions can be awkward for a parent. In these cases, it is important to separate your own discomfort from being respectful to the person your child is talking about.  

Because children are curious, they are noticing differences, and both curiosity and observational abilities are good skills for them to have. You can reinforce these skills while also teaching skills on how to show respect to others. It helps to read books that naturally inspire conversations about how people come in different shapes, sizes, and colors (skin, hair, eyes). For example, you might read, “Yo! Yes?,” by Chris Raschka. You could start by pointing at the cover and saying, “This book is about two children. This child has a white shirt with a red dot, striped shorts, mahogany skin, and short black hair. This child has a green jacket, brown pants, beige skin, and short sienna hair. I wonder what they are going to do. Let’s read the book and find out.” Then, if your child later points out a difference when you’re together in public, you can say, “You’re noticing her skin is different than yours. We don’t want to talk about someone as if they can’t hear us, so let’s say, ‘Hello.’” Or, “You’re noticing he is using a wheelchair. He uses it to move around, similar to the way you walk with your legs. We don’t want to talk about someone as if they can’t hear us, so let’s say, ‘Hello.’” This allows your child to stay curious and be respectful. 

Scientific Thinking 

Curiosity leads to scientific thinking. Infants and toddlers explore the world around them using all their senses, so by the time they are preschoolers, they have a basic idea of how the world works. A preschooler’s curiosity is piqued when something happens that seems unexpected. For example, they don’t expect a toy to move by itself, but if they put a magnet near a bottle cap, it jumps to the magnet. They will try this over and over until they eventually wonder what else will stick to the magnet. By the time most children are kindergartners, they will even conduct informal experiments with hypotheses. “I think only metal things will stick to the magnet.” Parents can help fuel this curiosity by asking a few open-ended questions: “What other objects can we try?” “What would happen if…?” Giving children detailed explanations or barraging them with dozens of questions at this age can lead to them exploring less. You just need to ask a question when they seem to be losing their sense of wonder. 

Curiosity can continue to motivate children throughout their lives. In the early years, their curiosity and questions seem endless because everything is new to them. Parents who respond to this curiosity with their own sense of joy can set a child up for a lifetime of success. 


To learn more about St. David’s Center’s Early Childhood Education, go to: 

For more resources on School Readiness, click here.

We currently have openings for toddler and preschool ages for the 2022-2023 ECE school year. Applications for new families are now being accepted and can be found and submitted on our website. 

Mike Huber, MAEd is the Curriculum Specialist for Early Childhood Education at St. David’s Center. He is the author of Inclusion Includes Us: Building Bridges and Removing Barriers in Early Childhood (Redleaf Press 2022) and Embracing Rough and Tumble Play: Teaching with the Body in Mind (Redleaf Press, 2016), as well as six picture books including The Amazing Erik (Redleaf Lane, 2014). He is the co-host of the podcast, Teaching with the Body in Mind, and a frequent guest on That Early Childhood Nerd.

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