My Daily Roadtrip

Curiosity, learning, and exploration (value #9)

Curiosity, learning, and exploration. I could probably blog about each of those as values of our family, but decided that there was enough overlap to keep them together and discuss them in one blog post.

In some ways, these values aren’t ones I personally have to really conjure up in our family. I have a 10 month-old who started crawling just a few weeks ago, and is getting into things, putting things in her mouth, and figuring out how to do things like standing up. And then there’s Elijah (2.5 years old) – if you’ve been around a boy his age even a few times, you know that exploration and curiosity (and therefore, learning) are some of the biggest things that guide much of their behaviors and attitudes. However, I also realize that I can celebrate and encourage these values, or easily shut them down. For example, if we are out and about, Elijah has to look at, sit on, jump off of (you get the picture) most things he encounters. I easily see this as him “getting into everything” and I can quickly get exasperated with him. However, my husband will often say, “Remember Dawn, he’s exploring his world.” He isn’t asking me to give Elijah license to misbehave, but to give him the chance to really use his senses and learn about those things that are going on around him. And you know what? I think my husband is right. Sometimes I need to chill out and just let him get into things and look at the many wonders around him, even if it seems like an “inconvenience” to me.

Our kids learn so much so quickly – it really is amazing. However, we can also be intentional to encourage this learning process or we can hinder it. Do we put them in situations where they can try new things? Do we allow them to struggle in certain circumstances because we believe it’s important for them to figure some things out for themselves rather than give up easily? Do we use our everyday, common experiences to help our kiddos learn? Or do we instead figure that they will learn when it’s time for them to go to preschool/school? Do we allow them to be entertained by tv/movies for hours at a time rather than encourage them to use and develop their minds and learn how to entertain themselves? (fyi – this blog post is not meant to be a commentary on kids and their use of media) I’m not saying that everything has to be turned into a “learning” experience, but I am finding that encouraging these things in my childrens’ lives requires intentionality (ah, that word again!).

Practical ideas for incorporating these values into our family:

  • I mentioned this in a previous post, but it fits here as well. I like to take my children on “walks o’ exploration.” I pick a place where Elijah can choose the path to take (to whatever extent still keeps him safe) and then follow his pace. Chances are that he’ll find a lot of things on his own, but I can still point out different objects or places and also talk about what letter each object starts with. We can count rocks, pine cones, sticks, etc. I can encourage him to try things they haven’t tried (ie. jumping off of something with my help – yes, I am a mother of a boy! ;)). We can talk about colors. The options are endless! These walks get us outside, gives Eliah exercise, and allows him to explore and learn.
  • Sing the abc’s, count, and read to Abigail daily. Shun-Luoi started singing the abc’s to Elijah at a very early age and I think it is, although just one factor, one of the reasons why Elijah does so well with letters and can even identify about 80% of the letters by sight. We also started counting with him and reading to him very early on – I believe this is why he can count to 10 and loves to read. I am finding it is easy to not be as intentional with a 2nd child, but this is something I really want to improve on.
  • Be intentional about introducing different genres of music (especially classical) and musical instruments to the kids.
  • Begin teaching the kids things even before they can understand it and talk to them in “adult speak.” Shun-Luoi and I are finding that Elijah can do way more than I sometimes think he can. Just after he turned 2, Shun-Luoi began to talk to Elijah about speaking in complete sentences. Honestly, I thought he was crazy. I told Shun-Luoi I thought complete sentences was beyond a 2 year-old’s comprehension. However, he kept up with it and sure enough, one day, unprompted, Elijah came up to me and said, “May I have more peaches?” I was floored! Shun-Luoi’s persistence paid off and I learned to expect more of my children than I do – kids really can understand and do more than we think they can. Also, Shun-Luoi and I are not really “baby-talkers.” We begin talking (using words children can comprehend) in adult voices to our kids basically from the beginning, not using a lot of baby words for objects, etc. I know this may be a personal preference, but I can’t help wonder if doing so contributed to Elijah working hard to repeat words the way we were saying them vs. continuing to use his baby words.

Obviously, my list pertains to small children because that’s the stage I am in right now. If you have older kids, you will have to be creative and think of some different types of ideas of incorporating these values into your kids’/family’s life. What are specific ways in which you encourage curiosity, learning, and exploration in your kids’ lives? Please share!

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