I was driving with my ten year old daughter in the car recently. Over the course of the drive, she casually asked a number of questions, some about things she encountered in the landscape (“how do you think they got those lights all the way into that tree?”) and others about whatever a ten year olds mind ponders (“How do fish breathe underwater?”).
After several questions, it struck me that children are so darn inquisitive. At what point does that inherent inquisitiveness start to leave the child on his/her way to adulthood? And, as parents what can we do to ensure that doesn’t happen and raise inquisitive children to become inquisitive adults? (the benefits of being an inquisitive vs. non-inquisitive adult are self-evident).
Some will say “that’s what schools are for”. That’s true, to an extent, and I take nothing away from the excellent school my children attend. But classrooms today can have 25-30 children and a lesson plan to follow, making personal attention that encourages the individual inquisitiveness of each child difficult. And, the kind of test-based assessment that most modern schools use that attaches a measurement mechanism to knowledge can actually do much to discourage the kind of unfettered inquisitiveness we are looking to cultivate. Personally, I am uncomfortable with leaving something this important in someone else’s hands.
The Modern Day Parental Dilemma
But busy parents in 2012 have a real dilemma if they intend to take steps to raise inquisitive children. Most of us are busy. Making a living. Running errands. Many of us have multiple children, each requiring their own individual attention to encourage their little inquisitive minds to grow.
I came up with what I think is a solution, but first a bit of background about the parameters of the solution. I once heard a talented educator speak to a roomful of adults. The speaker was a gifted story teller and he spent about 60-70% of the time telling stories, and the rest of the time talking about the message he wanted to get across (while connecting the stories to the message). It was clear the stories were very successful at capturing and maintaining the audience’s attention so that when he delivered his message he had their full attention. Then, before he lost it again, he moved on into his next story.
After the speech, I talked with him and said “It seems like your method is to capture people’s attention with the stories, then when you have their attention you deliver your message and move on to another story before you lose them”.
He smiled and said something to the effect of “Yes, that is what I do, and I do it intentionally”.
Remote Stimulation Mixed into Fun
Back to the solution to raising inquisitive children in the hustle and bustle of the modern household. First, I signed the children up for their own email addresses. Then over the course of my day to day internet browsing, I send them things I come across that will help stimulate their minds.
Things like this interesting 60 minutes segment about a 12 year old music prodigy:
In keeping with the lesson learned from the skilled educator I mix in *lots* of cute, fun things that make them smile and maintain their attention so that stimulating things that will make them think will hold their attention.
Inevitably, I’ll get back responses like this one to the dog picture:
And, while I can’t say for certain it is because of the ‘mix in stimulation with pictures of cute dogs’ methodology, I’ll also get back questions like “how is that 12 year old able to compose symphonies at such a young age?”. This inevitably creates opportunity for further discussion, both over email and later at the dinner table.
So, with investing little time during a busy day, I can send interesting things to the children that will stimulate thought, hopefully doing much to encourage the natural inquisitiveness of their brains at a time when their neural pathways are still forming. Hopefully this will lead them down a path to become inquisitive adults that have learned to question everything.
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- About the Author
Nathan Safran is a former Analyst at Forrester Research where he covered the Digital Home. While at Forrester, Nathan authored research studies on trends, attitudes and behaviors of consumers toward technology adoption and use.
Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine. Currently, Nathan heads the Research Department at Conductor, Inc an SEO Technology Platform firm.
Nathan writes at exceljockey.com about the intersection of Business, Technology and Psychology. See the About page for more info. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @Nathan_Safran