Boost Curiosity and Thinking Skills

As long as kids stay curious, they are motivated to learn, but when their
curiosity dies, their learning ability suffers. Many experts believe curiosity
may be the most important factor for children’s brain
development and their ability to tackle academic tasks. Just as my friends the
MacKenzies found, when their son’s curiosity was stimulated, it boosted his
motivation to learn.

Like curiosity, thinking is perhaps one of the most important subjects of
all, and it begins at home. Use opportunities in real, everyday living to give
your kids problem-solving practice. Let them help figure out how far apart to
space vegetable and flower seedlings in the garden. Before a trip, let them help
plan and budget the vacation money and navigate using maps while en route to
your destination. Turn a walk to the park into a nature investigation with an
inexpensive magnifying glass, a sack for interesting rocks or leaves, and a
critter jar made out of a plastic container with a mesh lid to let in air.

Ask curious questions when you go to the zoo together like "Why do you think
this animal has long legs? Is this animal a meat eater or a grass eater?" Give
them toothpicks and say, "What are all the ways we can use a toothpick?"
Brainstorm and see who can figure out how to use something that would normally
be thrown away. "What are all the ways we can use a toothpick?" Brainstorm and
see who can figure out how to use something that would normally be thrown away.
"What can we do with a Styrofoam tray the chicken was in?" (After washing, of
course!) And there are many other creative ideas kids can think of on their

And most of all, take your kids’ questions seriously — even though little
ones ask a lot of questions that can seem endless. (Remember, this curiosity,
these questions, are a key to his desire to learn, so avoid
putting out the fire!)

At the same time, don’t feel like you have to give all the answers; it’s
valuable to help your child think through the question and ask, "What do you
think about that?" or "That’s a really great question," and then guide him
through applying facts he’s already learned or coming up with a theory of his
own. If you’re too busy to talk about it at the time or don’t know the answer,
write your child’s questions on an index card and next time you’re at the
library, have him take it to the librarian to help discover the answer, or
search together on the Internet later.

When kids are in junior high and high school, critical-thinking skills are
developing, so it’s vital to keep an open dialogue with them about issues and
situations they face. When they make a statement that contrasts with your
values, avoid overreacting. Instead, guide them through the thought processes,
and encourage them to consider what determines right and wrong and to search for
what God says about that issue in the Bible. But let your children explain their
views and not always be put down for their ideas.

Also, find out what the school is doing to inspire kids’ curiosity. If your
discoveries prove disappointing, band with other parents to brainstorm for
creative ideas and buy hands-on science equipment (lots of which is
inexpensive). Meet with teachers and the principal to see how parents can
partner to improve the school environment and build students’ sense of wonder,
curiosity, and motivation for learning.