Building a foundation for school success in young children – Part 3: Curiosity

Learn how curiosity can help your child be successful when they are ready for school.

Children are naturally curious.
Children are naturally curious.

Pam Schiller’s book, “Seven Skills for School Success,” outlines seven skills that will help parents and early childhood providers build a strong foundation in young children for future success in school. These skills are based on research that shows social and emotional intelligence are critical skills to develop in young children in order to lay the foundation of later success in school and life.

Research has defined seven key elements that help a child be ready to learn that include confidencecuriosityintentionalityself-controlrelatednesscapacity to communicate and cooperativeness. This third article in this series will focus on curiosity.

Children are naturally curious. They use their five senses to learn about the world around them. Think about the baby that picks up a toy and immediately puts it in their mouth, or the young toddler that asks the never-ending question of “Why?” These children are showing their natural curiosity to find out how the world works.

Curiosity is something we want to encourage in young children. By supporting children’s curiosity, we are laying the foundation for children to explore, experiment, discover and wonder. These all lead to children being able to learn with enjoyment and gain knowledge about the world around them.

Schiller suggests several ways adults can help children build curiosity:

  • Model curiosity. Talk about what you are curious about, ask “What if” questions and use “I wonder” statements and allow children to fill in the answers.
  • Read books that show curious characters, such as:
  • “Curious George” by H.A. Rey
  • “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Joffe Numeroff
  • “The Nose Knows” by Ellen Weiss
  • “Why?” by Catherine Ripley
  • Encourage exploration. Make the environment safe for children to explore with all of their senses, provide a variety of materials for children to play and interact with, encourage children to use their imaginations, ask open-ended questions and listen to the children’s answers.
  • Let children know that it’s OK to fail. Failing is part of the learning process and shouldn’t lead to frustration. Share a time when you failed and what you learned from that situation.
  • Help children find out what interests them by listening and providing learning and exploration opportunities around those topics.

Helping encourage your child’s curiosity will help set the foundation for learning new ideas, trying new activities and being excited about learning. For more in-depth ideas on how to build curiosity in young children, take a look at the “Seven Skills for School Success” by Pam Schiller. For more ideas about activities and articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

Other articles in this series:

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