Did you know that encouraging your children and teens to be open and curious about the world around them, and to engender in them a lifelong interest in learning, is one of the most important and powerful gifts you can give them?
Openness is one of five core personality dimensions that drive behaviour, and some children and adults are naturally high in this trait. Some characteristics of openness include: seeking out a variety of new experiences, being adventurous and curious, being comfortable with the unfamiliar, and enjoying being surprised.
People with a low measure of openness prefer the security of familiar routines, are more comfortable with structure and certainty, rely on facts rather than conjecture, and prefer predictability to the unknown.
So why is it important for children and teens to expand their openness?
Research suggest that encouraging and supporting children to develop their openness has the following benefits
It increases their knowledge, and their comfort zones
It helps them to remain more positive
It correlates with higher levels of wellbeing and happiness
It promotes acceptance of others and improves relationships
It creates innovative thinking
It promotes active imagination
It activates brain development
How to encourage and support children’s openness and curiosity
As parents and carers, we are role models for our children in how open and curious we are ourselves. When was the last time you learnt something new or tried a new activity? In a world where we can become overwhelmed by the amount of information so readily available, it’s easy to slip into the comfort zone of our own current knowledge and interests.
Here are 5 ways to increase your children’s love of learning.
1. Ask and teach the 5 Ws
The five most powerful words to spark curiosity and learning are who, what, when, why and where? Teaching children how to use these words to learn about the world around them gives them a simple formula for lifelong learning. Another useful word is ‘How’. For example “ I wonder how children learnt about the world before we had technology”.
2. Engage them with questions not answers
It’s easy to simply give children the answer to a question, rather than encouraging them to find out for themselves. It’s the question that engages children, answers simply dampen their curiosity. You could also give them a range of answers to their question and then ask them which one they think is more likely to be the right answer.
3. Provide information in small chunks
It’s easier for children to ‘digest’ information in small chunks, rather than becoming overwhelmed by large amounts of information on a topic, By providing small ‘chunks’, it also gives them time to absorb and make sense of the information, which can then spark their own natural curiosity to ask more questions about the topic.
4. Create dinner time information sharing rituals
During family time, we can easily slip into conversations and questions such as “how was your day”, which can often be answered with an automatic response such as ‘fine, or ‘ok’. Instead, develop a conversation ritual where each person shares one thing that was most memorable about their day. Another way to stimulate interesting conversations with your children can be to ask “ what was the highlight of your day today”, ‘What was the most interesting thing you learnt today”, or “What was the hardest thing you did today?”
5. Encourage active listening
Active listening helps children to absorb and assimilate information properly, rather than getting caught up in simply thinking about the next question they are going to ask. Show them how to engage by summarising what they learnt from the answer given and how to ask further questions and probe for more information about what they just heard.
By teaching your children to be curious and open to exploring the wonders of the world around them, you will lead them down new and interesting paths full of adventure, excitement, learning and possibilities. Openness really is their Superpower!