A neroscientist on cultivating curiosity
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
I recently chatted with a neuroscientist and father of two, James, about nurturing curiosity in a child. He had given this a lot of thought and was probably the most lucid person I have talked to about the subject.
Here are some of his insights:
Kids are endlessly curious.
As a parent, you don't have to do anything to make a child want to learn about the world around them. Their curiosity flows naturally. It is really a question of how you maintain that curiousity.
So how do you keep your child's curiosity alive?
Safety. According to James, curiosity is a function of safety. Once a child feels and believes their needs are taken care of and there are no threats to them, they will explore the world naturally.
Pockets of space in the schedule. James keeps loose schedules with his kids. So if his toddler becomes interested in a unique plant or an interesting colored rock as they are walking, he lets her linger. He gives her space to explore the plant, to wonder about the plant, and to ask questions about the plant.
James is also a fan of Explained Parenting, a term coined by the prolific social scientist, Adam Grant. The driving idea is that you explain to your kids every decision you are making. It is a bit like a voice-over or a play-by-play commentary during the time you spend together. For example, if he takes his daughter to the supermarket, he explains why they are going. He may go through every item on their grocery list and reveal the reasons why they are picking that item up.
A conversation might go something like this: "We are going to pick up oatmeal because Mommy likes to have that for breakfast. We are picking this Aspirin because Daddy has a sore elbow from playing tennis.
The benefits of explained parenting are likely to be a better vocabulary for the child, better reasoning skills, a more robust bond between parent and child, and a deeper sense of autonomy for the child (if the kids are let into the reason behind actions, they may feel less like they are simply being dragged everywhere).
Happy parenting, Zack Prager, MAPP, Mindful Labs Co-founder