4 Ways to Create an Environment that Invites Curiosity

My last blog post broadly covered the topic of educating the whole child.  Today, and in all subsequent posts throughout this year, I will introduce one concept that will explore ways we can inspire and cement deep within a child’s framework the confidence to achieve their dreams, regardless of their prevailing circumstances.

Very early on in life, we are forced to adopt false narratives such as the perception that our aspirations are “unattainable,” “far-fetched,” or “unrealistic” simply because they seem out of reach for whatever reason at the moment.   Rather than being encouraged to dream, we are often trained to be “practical” – we are not taught to look at failures as success waiting to happen, or to consider barriers as challenges that will teach us more of what we need to know to succeed the next time around.  Over time, we run the danger of losing our imagination, our curious nature, and the ability to dream.

Creating an environment that invites curiosity is essential to nurturing future generations.  Of course, if we are to achieve this ideal as parents or caregivers, we need to have actionable steps to champion our children in this way as they navigate their world – which is often as demanding and as complex as our own “grown-up” lives.

Storytelling…your child’s first passport to the world

Stories provide children with a view into new and exciting worlds of characters, places, cultures, and traditions.

Storytelling enhances creativity, inspires curiosity, and broadens a child’s immigration – making them more open to new ideas and concepts while teaching them about life, themselves, and others.

Sadly, children along various dimensions of diversity rarely see themselves represented in the characters of the books that they read.  They are not only besieged by false narratives about themselves, but positive alternatives are seldom portrayed to challenge those untruths.

This is why representation matters, and the stories that we tell should be richly diverse.

Children’s early experiences shape what they imagine to be possible for people who look like them, live where they live, or come from where they came from. Simply put, children determine what they can become and what they can achieve based on the examples and role models they are exposed to.

I write this not from the perspective of an educator or a child psychologist, as I have no relevant credentials to speak of, but rather from the perspective of a parent—a parent wishing to instigate in his own child a curiosity for the richness of the world, the nuanced interplay of creativity, trial and error, diverse experiences, failure, and ultimately allowing him to create his own version of success.

Suspend judgment

I believe a fundamental practice, albeit extremely difficult one, is to try to suspend judgment of our children- their thoughts, their ideas, and their actions. We ourselves come with a set of preconceived notions of how things “should be” based on our own upbringing and/or our expectations of who our children should become. However, it is imperative we learn to subdue this overwhelming needed in order to truly allow them space to foster their own imaginations. Obviously, this will require monk-level patience and self-control!

Create space for imperfection

Perfection is curiosity’s kryptonite.  We know too well the common mantra “no one is perfect.” However, I believe we still inherently expect that of ourselves.  We want our environments to be perfect, our actions, our thoughts, our parenting, and ultimately our children. However, this simply cannot be, and in fact, it’s counter intuitive to learning and creating.

And so, for us, the action here is to make peace with the “messy,” the “imperfect,” and the “failures”, because therein lies the key to true deep learning and boundless discoveries.

Paint your children’s experiences with diversity

As humans, it is natural to gravitate towards the familiar and the easy. After all, this is where our comfort zone keeps us well-insulated from anything perceived as “threatening” or challenging.

As parents and caregivers, we have a responsibility to instill in our children a healthy appreciation for all things that contrast with their own reality (food, cultures, people, ideas, places, styles, etc.)

Painting our children’s experience with diversity starts with painting our own.  This is a moment for all of us to look in the mirror and consider our own false narratives, learned limitations or simply areas in our life where we have a homogeneous existence.

As parents and caregivers, we also must become curious about the world around us and develop a healthy appreciation for difference.

Changing the world as we know it starts with reflecting on our lived experiences, the narratives we have adopted and how that translates to how we show up in the world.

It’s about the environments we create to support unhindered growth and the realization of dreams through exploration; and as we  consider educating the whole child, it’s about the aspects of humanity we impart along the way.

If we sow these little seeds now, who knows what the resulting forest will look like in its time.



Educating the Whole Child

Learning the ropes in life is a complex process for a child, with a myriad of interconnecting concepts they must master.  For parents, care givers, and teachers, fostering the environment in which children can readily learn these concepts can be just as perplexing – especially in our new normal of COVID school closures.

Children learn best when they are within a safe, positive, and supported environment that is devoid of trauma or fear.  Negative emotions such as self-doubt, and anxiety inhibit their ability to take on any new information and learn in a meaningful way.

Likewise, when children are raised or taught in environments where they are supported when mistakes are made, where they are encouraged in developing their interpersonal skills, empowered to explore ideas, and where trust is built between themselves and their caregivers or teachers, they become far more capable and successful in all areas of life.

Social, emotional, and interpersonal lessons are as beneficial to children as what they learn academically. Encouraging them to be brave and test new ideas or situations requires them to feel confident in their ability to handle unknowns successfully, to relate to others in a positive way, to explore new concepts and ideas with less fear, to communicate in a healthy manner and to regulate their emotions.

To create an environment where we are educating the whole child, let’s first consider our goals, and then we will define some basic things that will pave our way there.

We are aiming to:

  1. Foster a supportive and encouraging environment through strong relationships with family and friends.
  2. Design situations in which children can relate concepts they learn to everyday life (e.g., implementing math when baking or cooking).
  3. Help children develop habits, mindsets, and skills that enable them to become competent in social and emotional situations. For example, when friends or siblings challenge them for their toys or want to voice alternative ideas to their own, they are able to communicate or advocate for themselves in a healthy way.
  4. Look for ways to enhance their learning by introducing a variety of experiences. Visiting museums, theatres, or even sites of interest will expose them to new and positive things. It will help to broaden their horizons and interests, as well as impacting on their personality.

And now we must consider how we could implement these things through some simple concepts:

  • Confidence – by encouraging them to keep trying when they fail, and by consistently reminding them of their worth in this world.
  • Cooperation – by creating situations through games and activities where they have to listen and cooperate with others for the task to be a success or enjoyable.
  • Curiosity – by exposing them to a wide variety of experiences to help to foster their natural curiosity.
  • Communication – by encouraging them to express and accurately represent their ideas, feelings, and knowledge in different situations. This requires active listening from caregivers or parents where no idea is too silly, and children are given the time and space to develop.

Hopefully, with a little conscious effort in these areas, we can help our children grow into secure, empathetic, and open-minded adults that feels confident in their unique contributions to the world around them.

Happy New Year – and I look forward to taking this journey with you in 2022.